Filed Under: Food Scares Seafood

Is Something Fishy? Yep. Mercury-Scare Activists.

NBC viewers in San Diego and Chicago saw a horribly misleading news story yesterday about the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) and its needlessly alarmist fish-mercury calculator. The activist group just rolled out a mobile-phone version of this food-scare program, and San Diego reporter Jane Ann Furer took the bait with a report titled “Something Fishy?” Here’s the answer she was grasping at: Yes. But it’s the activists, not your dinner. STRP’s mercury calculator misses the truth by a massive margin, scaring consumers for no good reason at all.
Furer writes:

Ever wonder how much mercury is lurking in the fish you want to eat? If so, there’s a new way you can check to see if what you’re about to eat might be bad for your health … Eating certain types of fish high in mercury like swordfish, tuna (fresh, canned and albacore), shark, tilefish and king mackerel can pose health risks. Those risks are especially great for mothers, pregnant women and children, depending on how much is eaten, according to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. For starters, canned tuna is a low-mercury fish. But even that shouldn’t matter. Seafood is a health food.
Commercially available fish in the United States doesn’t “pose health risks.” it offers health benefits. You could search every medical journal ever published, but you won’t find a single documented case of mercury poisoning related to commercially available fish in the United States. Not one.
That absence of evidence applies to unborn children, too. As Dr. Ashley Roman of the New York University Medical Center recently told Reuters, “There has been no case of fetal mercury toxicity due to fish consumption reported in the United States.”
How does a group like STRP get the facts so wrong and “cry wolf” so often? By willfully ignoring the built-in safety cushions in government seafood consumption guidelines.
The Food and Drug Administration has written that its mercury-in-fish advice “was established to limit consumers’ methyl mercury exposure to levels 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.” Similar advice from the Environmental Protection Agency contains the same ten-fold margin of safety. So if you want to know how much seafood you can actually eat without risking your health, take whatever number STRP gives you and multiply by ten.
Or just click here. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you with the Internet’s only honest mercury-in-fish calculator.
Why is it important to point out when fish activists get the facts so wrong? Because following their advice has real-world negative consequences for people’s health. In our new report, “Tuna Meltdown,” we found that U.S. families earning less than $30,000 per year have been so scared by mercury that 4.4 million of them stopped buying canned tuna over a 7-year period. And low-income moms-to-be who swear off canned tuna can’t afford other sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
The bottom line is that hundreds of thousands of America’s most vulnerable children will have abnormally low IQs because of groups like STRP and their cavalier attitude toward basic science. Is there something fishy about that? You bet.

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