New Report Finds Many Supermarket Shoppers Not Warned About Mercury in Seafood | Oceana

New Report Finds Many Supermarket Shoppers Not Warned About Mercury in Seafood

Press Release Date: October 1, 2009

Location: Washington, DC


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

Conservation organization Oceana released a report today, Vital Signs, showing that twelve percent of the nation’s grocery store market now posts the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mercury warning at their seafood counters. The agency warns women of childbearing age, including pregnant and nursing women, and young children not to eat swordfish, tilefish, shark and king mackerel, and to limit their consumption of albacore tuna and tuna steaks due to high mercury levels.  

Just weeks after the Institute of Medicine reaffirmed the need to follow FDA advice on mercury in seafood, Oceana’s new report shows that providing information at the point of purchase is an easy and effective way to ensure that consumers know which fish to buy and which to avoid.  This allows consumers to reap the benefits of Omega fatty acids in fish, while avoiding mercury risks.

“Although many of our country’s largest grocery retailers now post the FDA’s advice at their seafood counters, many consumers, especially in the Eastern U.S., still are not getting the message.  We hope that soon the remaining companies will recognize how easily they can protect their customers’ health,” said Jackie Savitz, Director of Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. 

Just days before the report’s release, another major grocery retailer, Albertsons, committed to posting signs in their stores, bringing this information to shoppers at even more U.S., grocery stores including subsidiaries Acme, Shaws/Star Markets and Jewel-Osco.  Albertsons joins Oceana’s “Green List,” a distinction given to stores in order to help direct consumers to those locations in which they can find the mercury advisory posted in seafood sections. Other chains not posting the warning remain on Oceana’s “Red List.”

“With Albertsons now joining the Green List, many more women will have the mercury information right where they buy fish,” said Erin Thompson, campaigns organizer for Women’s Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based women’s environmental health advocacy organization that, along with Oceana, convinced Albertsons to take this step. “We are incredibly pleased that Albertons is taking this step to help protect all consumers, but especially our nation’s children.” 

The reports findings include:

  • Some consumers are getting the information that they need since Wild Oats, Safeway, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and now Albertsons post the government’s warning. 

  • The states with the highest percentage of “Green List” stores posting advice tend to be in the West, and include Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, DC, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. These states have nearly 60 percent or more of their stores posting the FDA advice.

  • Shoppers in southeastern states are least likely to get this information. In Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia not a single store posts the FDA advice.

An Oceana survey conducted before any national chains had agreed to voluntarily post the warnings found that that 66 percent of people surveyed were not aware that mercury was a problem in swordfish and tuna, but when informed about the problem, 86 percent said the best solution was to post signs at the seafood counter.  Oceana’s “Green List/Red List” tool has generated citizen action persuading stores to move from the Red to Green category. For a copy of Vital Signs click here.For an interview with consumers whose health was affected by mercury contamination of seafood please call Katie Burnham at (202) 467-1906.
For contacts at grocery chains posting signs, please call Jackie Savitz at (202) 467-1916.
Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America (Washington, DC; Juneau, AK; Portland, OR; Monterey, CA; Santa Monica,, CA), Europe (Madrid, Spain; Brussels, Belgium) and South America (Santiago, Chile).  More than 300,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined Oceana.