Actor Jeremy Piven has become the poster boy for the ongoing battle between seafood hype and science. (Click here for a backgrounder on "Sushigate.") Last week, the verdict on Broadway was delayed when a panel of Actors’ Equity Association and Broadway League members couldn’t decide whether to believe the actor’s fishy mercury poisoning story. But that doesn’t mean the rest of America hasn’t made up its mind. On Sunday, an in-depth Fox News Channel segment became the latest indication that, after years of dangerously overblown mercury warnings, seafood science literacy is making a comeback.
Click here to watch Dr. Marc Siegel and Fox News correspondents discuss the practical impossibility that Piven contracted mercury poisoning from eating too much fish. As they point out, Piven would be the first American in history to get mercury poisoning from commercially-bought seafood – and he would have had to eat 108 pieces of sushi every day for a lifetime to incur such a slim risk. (Sound familiar?)
Siegel and Fox News have good reason to be skeptical of Piven’s sushi tale. But there’s one aspect of the scandal that they didn’t mention: Since omega-3 fatty acids in fish are such an essential part of a healthy diet, if Piven fabricated his mercury tale, he’s responsible for putting public health at risk. As our “Tuna Meltdown” report found, mercury-in-fish scare stories have put at least a quarter-million children at risk for having abnormally low IQs.
After leaving last week’s committee hearing, Piven’s rep announced that “he is glad that his illness has helped raise public awareness of the serious health risks caused by mercury exposure.” For the sake of Americans’ health (and his own career), let’s hope he meant mercury hype.