Oceana released the following statement today on the soon-to-be-released FDA report recommending that critical advice on mercury's effects on children be rescinded:
The forthcoming FDA report is the product of a long-standing closed-door process that excluded the public, and does not fairly weigh the public's interest as a result. It has not undergone public review, nor has it been reviewed by leading experts on the health effects of mercury. It draws heavily from research that has numerous technical flaws.
The report itself was unnecessary because the FDA advice is not preventing consumers from getting beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. The current FDA advice limits consumption of only five types of fish, and only for a subset of the population: women of childbearing age and kids. It otherwise encourages consumers to include dozens of other types of fish that provide Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.
Consumers can easily get the maximum benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids without suffering the risks of mercury. Studies have shown that consumers can get the maximum benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids through a diet that includes 12 ounces of fish per week, and that beyond that level, additional Omega-3 consumption provides little additional benefit. The current FDA advice urges women of childbearing age and kids to eat 12 ounces of low mercury fish, and is therefore not preventing the benefits of these fatty acids from being achieved.
Nearly every study on this subject shows that consumers can get the benefits of fish while avoiding the risks simply by choosing low-mercury fish. The current 2004 FDA advice is a critical tool in helping consumers make such informed choices. If the FDA advice is rescinded it will increase consumer exposure to mercury while doing little to increase any benefit that fish may provide.
The inclusion of tuna sparked a major public relations campaign by the tuna industry. Target populations are urged to limit albacore tuna and fresh tuna steaks, which includes tuna sushi. Study after study has shown that mercury levels in albacore tuna and other species used for tuna sushi are high in mercury, in some cases higher even that FDA reports. In fact, it is not uncommon for certain people to exclusively eat tuna as their only seafood choice.
One in ten women of childbearing age has a mercury level high enough to pose neurodevelopmental risks to her developing child, a figure that has declined by nearly half since the FDA issued its advice. Since mercury passes from mother to child through the placenta, and its effects are most pronounced in children, the FDA targets its advice to women of childbearing age and kids.
Clearly the FDA advice is beneficial to the public and it should not be rescinded based on a closed-door FDA process that is based on faulty science. Oceana looks forward to discussing the specifics of the report and how it relates to the weight of scientific evidence on this issue.