Concerned mothers and students from cities across America appealed to their local grocers today to post signs wherever fish subject to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory for mercury in seafood are sold. The endeavor was international ocean conservation group Oceana’s second National Day of Action and included simultaneous events in Madison, Wi., Atlanta, Ga., Pittsburgh, Pa., Los Angeles, Calif., and elsewhere.
“Posting signs in grocery stores is a simple, inexpensive solution that fulfills our fundamental right to know what’s in the food we buy, especially when it may be harmful to our family’s health,” said Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana’s Seafood Contamination campaign. “It’s especially critical for women of childbearing age and young mothers to have that information so they can make healthy eating decisions for themselves and their families.”
A national poll commissioned by Oceana showed that 66 percent of the public did not know that mercury in tuna and swordfish was a serious problem . The same poll, conducted in late 2004 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, showed strong public backing for posting warning signs, with 86 percent of respondents supporting such a requirement.
In early June, Oceana sent letters to several major grocery chains, including Safeway, Whole Foods, Costco, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and Royal Ahold, owners of Giant and Stop-n-Shop, requesting that they post signs in their stores to help consumers make educated choices when buying mercury-contaminated seafood.
A scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that one in six American women has enough mercury in her blood to pose neurological risks to her developing baby. Although it is particularly damaging to developing fetuses, who become contaminated when the mother has high levels of mercury in her system, toxic mercury also poses health risks to adults. Studies show that high mercury levels can cause neurological damage and memory loss, increase the risk of heart attack, and lead to several other health problems.