The Fishy Confusing Tuna Tale from the FDA
Tuna, when eaten once or twice a week is a very nutritious and healthy food. It is lean and mean right of the can, Low in calories, high in protein, fat is nil. One could say it is a near perfect food, just don't eat too much of it.
So, the American school lunch program would seem to embrace this food because of the nutrition value-good brain food. Yet, for the past three years, Charlie Tuna has been hard to find in the school lunch program. Tuna is absent because of the confusing FDA law that states the "tuna" must be American. What a notion, American tuna for only the American kids.
The only American tuna brand is Starkist. Its tuna are caught in the Asia-Pacific oceans. Its tuna are caught on USDA approved ships. The tuna is then taken to American Samoa where it is processed by non-Americans living in the non-American Samoa. Many workers earn $4.75 hr. in this part, well under the federal limit of $7.25 hr, so Starkist pays them $10 hr. When the FDA inspected the facilities, they determined it was not up to health standards. This is when the other major competitors, Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee tried to step in. However, the FDA would not allow them because their tuna is caught by ships not waving the American flag. Their ships haul the catch to Thailand for processing. Once processed the tuna loins are sent to the US for final canning etc. The tuna goes to California and Georgia where workers are paid between $12-18 hr.
Things became more complicated when Starkist was sold to Korea's Dongwon Industries. Bumblee Bee is owned by a UK firm and Chicken of the Sea is Thai owned. Now what? Where is the American tuna?
Much of the FDA rules centers around the wages also. They state foreign owned companies, using foreign flagged ships and uses foreign workers to can the fish and make less than $7.25 hr qualifies the tuna as "American". Yet, foreign companies who process their tuna with American workers is un-American because of the wages they earn.
The policy is a head scatcher. When American Samoa caught wind of this, their government made allegations that the competitors use child labor. Congress is confused as well, they have requested the USDA to reevaluate their policy about buying only American tuna, which is muddled because Starkist is not American anymore, but Korean owned.
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