Like drug safety, seafood safety is critically important to the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued inadequate and confusing advice to consumers about the dangers of mercury contamination in seafood. While the tuna industry touts tuna’s health benefits, some tuna also contains high levels of mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one in six pregnant women have enough mercury in their blood to pose risks such as brain damage to their developing babies. This means that as many as 630,000 U.S. newborns each year may be exposed to enough mercury to harm their nervous systems. Seafood, including tuna, is considered the primary source of mercury in the diet. Yet the FDA does not require supermarkets that sell tuna and other mercury contaminated seafood to post warning signs alerting consumers about government warnings that consuming contaminated seafood can be harmful. To date the FDA has issued warnings for women and children to limit their consumption of fish, especially swordfish, tilefish, shark, king mackerel and albacore tuna.
Oceana and 10,000 of its supporters have called on the FDA to clarify its warnings and require signs in stores so consumers can make informed seafood purchases. The FDA also should begin systematic testing to better quantify mercury levels in seafood. With seafood comprising such an important part of the diet, people should know the risks of buying it so they can choose wisely and protect the health of their families.