The Beacon

FDA to Update Mercury Consumption Advisory

Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in a tuna cage near the water’s surface. (Photo: Oceana / Keith Ellenbogen)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is updating their mercury-advisory guidelines for the first time in ten years, and is taking a new approach to advising mercury consumption: encouraging informed intake rather than avoidance.

In an interview with the Associated Press last month, FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced that the agency would be updating its guidelines on mercury in order to better inform women about the type and quantity of fish to consume when pregnant, breastfeeding, and feeding their children, but that they would not be requiring mercury advisories on seafood labels

Yesterday, the FDA, with help from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  released a draft of the updated guidelines, which encourages women to eat more low-mercury fish and a wider variety of it, instead of just telling them which to avoid. The FDA is now emphasizing a diet consisting of 8 to12 ounces of fish a week, instead of previously recommending not exceeding a diet of 12 ounces of fish a week. The draft also includes a detailed list of Omege-3 and mercury levels found in common fish in stores and restaurants so that consumers are better informed. The long-awaited update comes after recent reports show many pregnant women in the U.S. are not consuming the recommended amount of fish, which can affect brain and nervous system development in youngsters, according to the FDA.

The last time the FDA released a mercury-consumption advisory was in a brochure in 2004. In its updated draft, the FDA still asserts that consumers should avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel and can most commonly choose to eat salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod.

Some consumer groups are upset that the updates don’t require labels on seafood, citing that the mercury advisories aren’t clear enough and that people have to personally remember which fish are okay to eat, according to Environmental Health News. Several groups have filed a lawsuit against the FDA about the lack of warnings.

Oceana campaigns to fight ocean pollution, including mercury contamination, on a global scale. Oceana is working with grocery stores to protect their customers by encouraging them to post warning signs about mercury levels, and is also working with chlorine plants to eliminate mercury-based chlorine production. More information on the campaign can be found here

Additionally, Oceana’s Seafood Fraud campaign works to track and trace seafood, ensure that it’s handled safely, and that it’s labeled correctly—all aspects that provide transparency for consumers and gives them confidence that they’re buying safe products. You can learn more here. Today, Oceana released a map indicating where the worst seafood fraud offenders are. 


Browse by Date