Safeway CEO Steven Burd’s decision to educate his customers about mercury contamination in seafood by voluntarily posting mercury warning signs in more than 1,500 stores nationwide is an example of corporate responsibility, Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s director of the Stop Seafood Contamination Campaign, told the grocery chain’s stockholders meeting today.
“Most patrons have never heard of the federal warning about mercury in certain fish or are confused about which fish are safe to eat,” Savitz said. “The warning signs Safeway is posting in stores nationwide are an easy way to educate and protect customers. Safeway’s commitment to having signs in all Safeway and subsidiary stores is an example of corporate responsibility that other stores should follow.”
To date, Safeway and Wild Oats, based in Boulder, Colo., are the only two grocery chains that have agreed to Oceana’s request that they post signs on the seafood counter conveying the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) warning about mercury in fish.
Savitz was invited to address Safeway’s annual stockholder’s meeting at the supermarket chain’s corporate headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif. Safeway (NYSE: SWY) is one of the largest grocery retailers in North America. The Safeway chain includes 1,554 stores in the United States under the Safeway, Genuardi’s, Vons, Dominick’s, Randall’s, Pavillions, Tom Thumb, Pak ‘n’ Save and Carrs names.
The FDA issued an advisory in 2004 that warned women of child-bearing age and children to avoid swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark, due to the high mercury content of these fish. The FDA also advised them to limit albacore tuna and tuna steaks to no more than six ounces per week. The FDA has determined that mercury contamination in these fish is high enough to threaten fetal development and children’s health.
“Shoppers have a choice about where to spend their money,” said Savitz. “We hope that they will consider patronizing a responsible store like Safeway over another chain that has opted not to address this critically important public health issue.”