Washington, DC — The Food and Drug Administration should ignore the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI’s) ill-advised demand for nationwide mercury warning labels wherever fish is sold, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom said today. CSPI has previously recommended that the FDA include warning labels on canned tuna similar to those mandated for alcohol and cigarettes.



In an August 12, 2005 letter, FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford criticized California Attorney General Bill Lockyer for his state’s “misleading” and possibly illegal warnings on tuna — the same warnings that CSPI is now broadly endorsing. And California’s hyper-cautionary fish warnings are based on a flawed understanding of how much mercury would be required to introduce new health risks. The FDA has written that its mercury consumption advice is calibrated “to limit consumers’ methyl mercury exposure to levels 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.”



“CSPI is dead wrong when it says California’s mercury warning labels should be expanded coast-to-coast,” said Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko. “Scaring Americans about harmless, trace amounts of mercury will only drive more of us away from eating fish. And that’s not a good thing.”



“The FDA has already written that government-mandated mercury warning labels would be misleading,” said Martosko. “You’d think CSPI would be better informed. And the scientific literature is bulging with evidence that fish can help prevent strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. CSPI should read more of it.”



Crawford warned Lockyer in August that the very plan CSPI is endorsing would be “without any scientific basis as to the possible harm caused by the particular foods in question, or as to the amounts of such foods that would be required to cause this harm.” Crawford also wrote that such warnings would be “misleading under section 403 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, causing tuna products with such warnings to be misbranded under federal law.”



FishScam.com, a Center for Consumer Freedom website unveiled earlier today, tackles the politics of fish fears and blows the whistle on irresponsible fish-related health claims of groups like CSPI, Oceana, the Mercury Policy Project, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The claims of all four groups are rebutted, point-by-point, in the “Fearmongers” section of the website.



“It’s a good thing that the FDA isn’t slapping warning labels on fish that contain just one-tenth the amount of mercury that might be a cause for concern,” Martosko added. “There’s a reason our mothers used to call fish ‘brain food.’ The food police at CSPI should have eaten more of it.”