In another example of activist opportunism this Mother’s Day, Oceana commemorated the occasion by spreading paranoia about mercury levels in fish. In a special press release on Friday, the group’s usual seafood alarmists took a backseat to “Oceana celebrity spokes-Mom” Amber Valetta, who offered a few “tips” on the species and quantity of fish we should be eating in order to stay healthy. Aside from its usual errors in fact–about tuna and weekly fish consumption, for instance–Oceana’s Mother’s Day (scare) campaign brings up another point: Do we really want to get our dietary guidelines from a supermodel/actress?
In fairness to Valetta, it’s unlikely that she drew up the faulty fish advice on her own. An acting and modeling career, however successful, hardly qualifies someone to pontificate on the specific type and amount of fish we can or cannot eat. In all likelihood, though, the spokes-Mom’s ghostwriters aren’t any more qualified to give out that advice than Amber Valetta herself.
Take resident fish fear-monger Jacquie Savitz, for example. Savitz is listed as the first “expert” for media contact about Oceana’s latest seafood scare report (duly titled “Hold the Mercury”), which recommends that the FDA post warning signs at fish counters and add fresh tuna to its “Do not eat” list. But what makes Savitz an authority on the “risks” of eating seafood? The answer, as we’re pointing out in a new section of MercuryFacts.org, is “Nothing.”
Savitz has a B.A. in “Marine Science and Biology” from the University of Miami and a M.S. in “Environmental Science” from the University of Maryland — neither of which is sufficient for her to sound any public health alarms or recommend what families should put on their Lenten menus. She criticizes grocery chains that have decided against scaring their customers away from the seafood counter, despite a lack of professional competency in any scientific discipline that might help her understand the unintended consequences of her demands.
Given the number of activists who are muddling the public health debate about mercury in seafood, it’s hardly surprising that there’s so much confusion about the benefits of eating fish. Michael Bender (Mercury Policy Project), Caroline Smith De Waal (Center for Science in the Public Interest), Caryn Mandelbaum (GotMercury.org), and Beth Trask (Environmental Defense) have also been offering dietary advice despite a total lack of relevant credentials. For more about these (Un)Registered Dietitians, click here.