Jacqueline Savitz, Seafood Contamination Campaign Director for the international ocean conservation group Oceana, which is campaigning to get FDA advice posted in grocery stores nationwide, issued the following statement in response to a decision by a Superior Court judge that California does not have the power to require mercury warning labels on tuna cans. Oceana has supported the state of California in its effort to inform its citizens about the health risks of mercury contamination in seafood, and together with other groups, filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the public’s right to know and the state’s power to inform its citizens.
“Oceana and its supporters are extremely disappointed to learn of the court’s decision that Proposition 65 compliant warnings are not required to be displayed on tuna cans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued mercury advice in 2004, stating that women of child-bearing age and children should limit their consumption of albacore tuna (chunk white tuna) to no more than 6 ounces per week. This is due in part to the fact that tuna is the most commonly consumed fish in the nation. While the court has found that the FDA advice is sufficient warning in itself, surveys have shown that about two thirds of the public are unaware of this important advice. Given the lack of recognition among the public, and the high rate of tuna consumption, it is clear that the FDA advice is simply not sufficient.
“Mercury is not just one of the many chemicals found in fish, it’s arguably the most serious risk to fish eaters. FDA has not issued similar advice for any other chemical in commercial fish, except for mercury. Since mercury is the chemical of greatest concern in fish, we think shoppers have a right to know.”
“California citizens passed Proposition 65 by referendum back in 1986 and the law has delivered tremendous benefits over the past two decades. Attorney General Lockyer should be commended for his efforts to protect California families, and we hope that the state will appeal this unfortunate decision.”
Oceana’s campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination is working to get warning signs with the FDA advice about mercury in fish posted at seafood counters across the United States. Two companies, Safeway and Wild Oats, already are posting signs nationally. The campaign is also working to reduce the mercury pollution that leads to seafood contamination by urging the last remaining mercury based chlorine manufacturers to switch to the readily available mercury free technology that is already in use by the other 90% of the chlorine industry.