Since we told you on Wednesday about a reckless piece of “science” journalism in The New York Times about what turned out to be harmless levels of mercury in sushi-grade tuna, three remarkable things have happened. Here’s an update.
This morning, we told viewers of NBC’s TODAY show that the entire mercury scare is overblown: “The levels of mercury in the fish we’re eating at the fish counter, at the sushi counter, in the frozen food aisle and out of canned tuna are nowhere near high enough to harm a human being.”
Last night, TIME magazine published an online interview with Harvard University’s respected epidemiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, who stressed that the real health risk associated with tuna comes when you don’t eat enough of it. “Overall,” he said, “the dangers of not eating fish [including tuna] outweigh the small possible dangers from mercury … probably only 10% to 20% of the population in the U.S. eats sufficient fish. The real danger in this country, the real concern, is that we’re not eating enough fish. That is very likely increasing our rates of death from heart disease.”
Dr. Mozaffarian also reinforced something the Center for Consumer Freedom has been saying for years: The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Reference Dose” for mercury includes a generous safety cushion:
The EPA’s limit is the acceptable limit of safety, which includes a 10-fold safety factor. That’s not a risk level. That’s the accepted safety level [0.1 mcg of mercury per kg of body weight per day]. That’s 10 times lower than where the EPA determined that risk was occurring — which is a prudent safety limit to be certain that there is no risk. So, for example, if six pieces of tuna sushi a week would put you at the limit, that means you would have to eat 60 pieces to get to the level where the EPA determined risk is occurring.
Lastly, a Senior Editor at Newsweek magazine published a truly nasty (and, more importantly, scientifically uninformed) piece about our seafood-safety advocacy yesterday on the magazine’s blog. Thankfully, an even more “senior” editor decided that we deserved an opportunity to respond. So a few hours ago, Newsweek online readers were treated to a dose of common sense, courtesy of our Director of Research.
The needless controversy over whether or not sushi deserves the skull-and-crossbones treatment (it doesn’t) probably won’t fade away quietly. But fear not: Even if you’re not a fan of Japanese food, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.