Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wild Planet's Wild Sardines (and Frank Answers)

Reading the labels of packaged food products is always educational. Even minimally processed foods (i.e. canned tomatoes, sardines, roasted peppers) can have additives or storylines that should be noted.

I love sardines and recently discovered the Wild Planet brand, which uses wild sardines “sustainably caught along the California coast” packed in tins that are “certified BPA free,” two important details for me. Even more important, Wild Planet’s sardines are delicious and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

One small detail, though, caught my eye. Wild Planet sardines are “processed in Vietnam.” I thought this strange and made me question the “caught along the California coast” claim.

I went to the Wild Planet website and the issue was addressed on the “Facts and Questions” page:
Why are Wild Planet tuna and sardines caught in the US but packed in Vietnam?

Unfortunately, there is no US sardine or tuna cannery capable of processing our volume requirements and the last sardine factory in the United States closed in 2010. In addition, the US cost of production would greatly increase the retail price beyond the reach of most families. Our goal is to make US-sourced sustainable seafood choices mainstream and thus have a greater impact on fishery harvest practices for the long-term good of ocean conservation.

We have elected to process our 5oz cans of albacore and skipjack tuna as well as our sardines in a highly respected partner facility in Vietnam. This facility offers state-of-the-art canning expertise in an immaculately clean, accredited environment that produces higher quality finished products than any cannery we have seen in the US.
Wild Planet’s frank disclosure is a refreshing change; I rarely see such openness from a food company.
Some of the major internationals don’t list basic information, including the ingredients of their heavily-processed foodstuffs, on their websites. My follow-up phone calls are sometimes met with attitude, incompetence or a mix of both.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the recommendation and information. These things are important!

Anonymous said...

Very informative.

Coach Schneids

coachie ballgames said...

I call b.s. on their explanation, if they are a small company then their volume should not be beyond domestic, or at least North American, processors. It's not like they are building rockets.
Moreover, the only reason it's cheaper to ship abroad and then ship back is because the true environmental cost is not being included in shipping rates.
Thus, for the macro benefit to the environment, we'd be better off eating canned fish that was caught and processed in southeast asia to cut down on the extra shipping back and forth.

Anonymous said...

Tried WP Sardines for the first time yest and the "processed in vietnam" part was a turn-off, so thankyou for pacifying my troubled mind with your post.

Anonymous said...

This answers my questions, but I'm not happy with the answers. Again, we are shipping work away from the US. And, the environment is effected by the travel to and from Vietnam. Sorry, if I'm going to buy a product from afar, I'm buying French Sardines. They taste better anyway.

Anonymous said...

The main issue I have with WP is the fact that they are deceiving the public with their "California caught" sardines suggesting that this is US operation. The reality is that they are a Vietnamese product, most likely fished off of coastal Vietnam in mid-water purse seiners and processed and packed there. There is nothing "Californian" about this line and they should come clean and change their packaging.

Anonymous said...

I purchased this tuna for the first time today. I was really impressed with this brand UNTIL I read the processed in Vietnam on the can. I will be returning the cans I bought for that reason. I have read nothing but bad things about fish being processed there and the filthy, deplorable conditions in these fish processing plants. Very disappointed in this brand.