Fish Advice Throws Baby Out With The Bath Water

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The following is a statement by Michael Bender, director of The Mercury Policy Project:

"To their credit, the US Food and Drug Administration and its various expert groups, and EPA scientists worked very hard over a considerable number of years to present a balanced and clear message in the current Federal mercury fish consumption advisory. They recognized that there is there is enough mercury in certain fish to pose health risks, especially for heavy and moderate fish consumers, women of child-bearing age and children.

The current Federal advisory recommends that pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children eat up to 12 ounces of fish with low levels of mercury contamination and that certain fish be avoided, like swordfish and shark, and other fish be limited, like white canned tuna and tuna steaks, due to high mercury content.

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The Federal definition of 'safe' exposure to methyl mercury is not over- protective; more likely, it is not protective enough. Potential health effects associated with mercury, but not considered in the current Federal definition of 'safe' exposure, may mean mercury poses wider risks than previously recognized.

While it's recognized that fish is an important source of protein, especially for pregnant women, this new emphasis on eating more than 12 ounces of fish per week, without mention of the need to avoid mercury contaminated fish, appears to throws the baby out with the bath water.

This new and conflicting advice is sure to further confuse the public and intentionally throws a monkey wrench into the risk communication message that the FDA has developed, tested, revised and finalized, and is currently presenting to the public and target audiences through such avenues as the health care community.

Again, the good news is that pregnant women can enjoy all the benefits that fish provide and avoid the risks of mercury by choosing low-mercury fish.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that these so-called experts forgot to mention this in their advance story appearing in the Oct. 4, 2007 Washington Post article."

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