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Pair say they can no longer trust the Gorton's fisherman, so they sue

A New Yorker and a Californian are suing Gorton's of Gloucester - now owned by a Japanese seafood company - alleging its "sustainable" tilapia is anything but sustainable.

Jeffrey Alan Spindel and Kevin McCarthy are hoping to become lead plaintiffs in a class-action suit over alleged deceptive product claims that their lawyers filed today in US District Court in Boston.

In their suit, in which they are alleging damages of at least $5 million on behalf of a teeming school of grilled-tilapia consumers, the two charge that rather than relying on soft-spoken bearded men in yellow slickers braving the waves o'er the briny deep to bring us the freshest, choicest tilapia fillets (tilapia in any case are native to streams and ponds in Africa), Gorton's gets at least some of its tilapia from overcrowded "industrial" fish farms in China that douse their feed with antibiotics and dangerous preservatives and which often get flooded by nearby rivers, letting disease-ridden, antibiotic-resistant farm tilapia escape and infect native fish - the ones that the tilapia don't out-compete for food.

Gorton’s claims about sustainability deceive and/or are likely to deceive consumers. Reasonable consumers have been, and continue to be, deceived into believing that the Products are made from tilapia sustainably sourced in accordance with high environmental and animal welfare standards, when in reality, and on information and belief, the Products are made using unsustainable practices that are environmentally destructive and inhumane. ...

In making the false, deceptive, and misleading representations at issue, Gorton’s also knows and intends that consumers will buy more of and/or pay more for fish products marketed as “sustainabily sourced,” furthering Gorton’s interest of increasing its sales and decreasing sales of competitors whose products are truthfully marketed.

Spindel says he happily bought Gorton's tilapia at supermarkets in Rockland County, New York for two years - until he discovered the truth about the company's "sustainable" claims:

Plaintiff Spindel was willing to pay the requested price for Gorton’s Products because he reasonably expected that the tilapia used in the Products were sustainably sourced in accordance with high environmental and animal welfare standards.

Had Plaintiff Spindel known that the Products were made from tilapia industrially farmed using unsustainable practices that are environmentally destructive and inhumane, he would not have purchased or continued to purchase the Products at the requested price.

He avers that he continues to consume tilapia, just not the version Gorton's sells.

McCarthy claims a similar story, except he bought Gorton's tilapia in a supermarket in San Francisco.

The two want Gorton's to stop what they claim is its deceptive advertising and to pay them and other members of the class enough money to make Gorton's never want to do that again, plus attorney's fees.

The case was assigned to Judge Patti Saris. Another judge in Boston federal court, Nathaniel Gorton, who is related to the family that started Gorton's (he did rule in a case involving Legal Sea Foods last year).

Complete complaint (2.8M PDF).

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Comments

**opens freezer**

Looks at fresh bag of Gorton's fish sticks. Welp.. this will be the last bag. I guess me and Mrs Paul will have a thing again. (after I check her out too)

(I had no idea they did this nor they aren't locally owned anymore.. bye bye. and yeah fish sticks don't use the type mentioned here.. (its usually pollock), their business practices over there now make me question 'what's in the fish sticks')

--

also no comments from gallery about a mid-40s dude who still eat fish sticks like a 5 year old. I do not eat fish any other way so this is about as good as it gets. (yeah I'm a rare native new englander who doesn't eat fish or ski)

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Voting closed 31

You know how in most of these product liability lawsuits that Adam posts, the person suing is generally making a mountain out of a mole hill (in hopes of winning a big settlement)? I'm still willing to trust the Gorton's fisherman until the case is heard.

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Voting closed 11

No question they are looking for a payout but in all these cases the plaintiff has a case. These companies take extreme liberties with their marketing knowing there's almost no federal oversight.

These lawsuits represent the best consumer protection we've got, sadly.

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Voting closed 28

Some of those other cases are like, "You sold me orange soda, but it contains no oranges." That's a stretch. In this case "sustainable" is really the crux of the case. What is the actual definition of "sustainable" and were their practices "unsustainable"? I'm inclined to see this as a stretch as well, but we'll see. (Now if they said "wild" and it was really "farmed" then that's a big deal and they should go down for that.)

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Voting closed 11

I think more my issue was they are not locally owned.. or even nationally owned anymore.

Mrs Paul's appears to be owned by Pinnacle Foods, which as of 2018 is now a sub of ConAgra foods (barf)

So pick your poison I guess. We shall see.

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Voting closed 6

Gorton's hasn't been locally owned since the 60's, and it hasn't been U.S. owned since the 90s.

Bought by General Mills in the 60s.

Bought by London based Unilever in the 90s.

Bought by this Japanese company in like 2001.

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Voting closed 6

Asking for a friend. (ahem)

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We just enjoyed a package of haddock fish sticks from Red's Best via Crescent Ridge Dairy home delivery. Not cheap, because seafood prices have skyrocketed, but I like supporting local fishermen.

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Red’s Best is the solution to the problem here. You can watch Red’s Best guys gathering up the fish from fishermen in Cape Cod and all the local spots. Red’s makes haddock! fish sticks, and makes so much fresh and frozen stuff available right from the Boston Fish Pier. You can order whatever you want for pickup at that pier, or they deliver from there if you are within ten miles. I go to boston.redsbest.com to place my orders.

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Voting closed 16

I may actually do this. I don't eat fish sticks too often.. often its just a fill in for one of the meals I have on rotation.

My biggest thing is the smell, which is why I think fish sticks (and fried scallops) can handle. But if I have to smell that fishy smell before I eat them.. I won't.

Haddock isn't terrible about the smell (nor is it terrible to eat), and is also used in fish sticks (but pollock is more prevalent).

Looks like Red's Haddock Sticks are 11.99/lb (.69/oz)

Last bag of Gorton's was 6.99 for 24oz (..30/oz)

Sure double the price (or more) but I'd pay that to have locally made & sourced fish sticks. And they might even be nutritionally better. I can swing by Fish Pier pretty easily via the Silver Line. Would be worth the trip.

Thanks, I'm also going to tell my fish stick loving mostly vegetarian neighbor this too.

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Voting closed 15

Other than Crescent Ridge Dairy home delivery, that is.

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They have a stall at the Boston Public Market, and a website through which you can order for home delivery.

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Voting closed 9

They are also gluten-free, which doesn't matter to us but might to some.

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should protest outside the plant if they are truly concerned, and in possession of valid research. Otherwise they should find honest work. On the other hand, I am regularly cheated by snack chip bags full of air, and if they want to go after someone, I'm in. I expect that my share of the settlement will be at least 67 cents.

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Voting closed 8

"Damages" may be hard to prove but their concerns have merit and the "valid resesearch" is provable reality.

As to your second concern of being "cheated with bags of air". This was previously discussed during our "intro to weights and measurements" back in 4th grade.

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Voting closed 6

I understand and share your concern about more than half-empty chip bags. However, I do believe that the trapped air is mainly there to keep the chips from getting broken during shipping and handling.

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Voting closed 11

and you are receiving the weight of the product you are paying for. The "air" in the bag is typically nitrogen, which both cushions the product from breakage but also helps preserve it by excluding oxygen that makes up ~20% of our air and would slowly oxidize the product as it sat on the shelf.

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Voting closed 14

Nitrogen you say? Wow, learned something today. Thanks!

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should protest outside the plant if they are truly concerned, and in possession of valid research. Otherwise they should find honest work.

I think people should not be telling other people what they should do with their time. It's their time to waste, you know?

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Voting closed 9

maybe the government "should" actually do its own investigation and enforcement of product safety rather than relying on individual consumers to buy things, be harmed by them, then having to take giant corporations to court in order to prompt changes?

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I think we should be taking better care of our wild fish stocks I guess most corporations have bet against humanity at this point, so it's sell as many fish sticks as you can so they can take their spaceships to the promised land in the sky.

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He avers that he continues to consumer

Too much pirate in the tongue of that tilapia gobbling landlubber! Cut off that aaarrr!

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Voting closed 9

Thanks, fixed.

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Voting closed 7

Looking up Gorton's on Wikipedia, I see that "In 1953, the company was the first to introduce a frozen ready-to-cook fish stick, which won the Parents magazine Seal of Approval."

(That makes some sense, since Gloucester is also where Clarence Birdseye did his early research on frozen food.)

But I'm reminded of a wonderful song by Leon Rosselson, a very political folksinger from England. Being from [ahem] across the pond, Rosselson naturally uses the British terminology:

Whoever invented the fishfinger,
ought to be transmogrified.
Skinned, mashed and boxed into uniform blocks,
then covered with breadcrumbs from collar to socks,
and frozen and finally fried.

Because who'd do that to a fish,
finning its way through the seas,
Colours in harmony, perfectly poised,
riding its flying trapeze.

Originally written in 1979, it's on Rosselson's album "Bringing the News From Nowhere", among others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL9xKE8hVOs

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Voting closed 9

I don't eat tilapia for other reasons. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats is suspected to be very unhealthy, and could cause heart disease.

As far as the sustainability of farmed fish, when I first heard about fish farming, I thought it would be a great way to avoid depleting wild fisheries. Later I found out that fish farming corporations have given in to the profit motive, and it's an unsanitary polluting industry.

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Voting closed 11

Perhaps, Adam, you meant a teeming school? Unless the two plaintiffs are hoping increase their team of plaintiffs from two to a full school.

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Yep. Fixed.

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were the three-eyed flounders in Boston Harbor before the cleanup.

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