Oceana Kicks Off National Campaign Asking Grocers to Warn Shoppers of Mercury in Seafood | Oceana

Oceana Kicks Off National Campaign Asking Grocers to Warn Shoppers of Mercury in Seafood

Press Release Date: October 2, 2009

Location: Washington, DC


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Oceana’s Seafood Contamination Campaign today launched a new initiative demanding that supermarkets nationwide post warning signs wherever fish containing high levels of toxic mercury are sold. The ocean conservation group released a poll today that shows overwhelming public support for signs to inform shoppers about FDA mercury advisories, and announced that actress Amber Valletta, a young mother who recognizes the dangers of mercury contamination, has signed on to become the campaign’s spokesperson.

In early June, Oceana sent letters to the heads of several major grocery chains, including Safeway, Whole Foods, Costco, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and Royal Ahold, owners of Giant and Stop-n-Shop, requesting that they post warning signs in all their stores to help consumers make educated choices when buying seafood. To date, none have agreed to do so.

“Americans have a right to know what’s in the food they buy, especially when the Food and Drug Administration says eating some types of fish, including swordfish and tuna, poses health risks to them and their children,” said Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana’s Seafood Contamination Campaign. “Posting warning signs in grocery stores is a simple, inexpensive solution that fulfills that fundamental right to know.”

A nationwide poll conducted on behalf of Oceana by an independent firm showed strong public backing for posting warning signs, with 86 percent of respondents supporting such a requirement. The data also show that most people do not know which fish the FDA recommends avoiding[i].

Savitz said that Oceana is neither campaigning to take fish off of supermarket shelves nor telling people to stop eating fish, but rather trying to give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision on what is best for themselves and their families.

“It’s OK to eat low-mercury fish in moderation, but most people have no idea what to avoid, which can result in serious health problems. This ‘buyer beware’ attitude is not acceptable when it comes to our kids, and customers agree. Signs on seafood counters and tuna shelves are a sensible solution,” said Savitz.

A scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that one in six pregnant American women has enough mercury in her blood to pose neurological risks to her developing baby. Although it is particularly damaging to developing fetuses, who become contaminated when the mother has high levels of mercury in her system, toxic mercury also poses health risks to adults. Studies show that high mercury levels can cause neurological damage and memory loss, increase the risk of heart attack, and lead to several other health problems.

Oceana’s campaign will not only inform the public about the dangers of consuming tuna, swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish, it will also help solve the problem by reducing mercury pollution at its source. In January, Oceana released Poison Plants, a report that exposed six U.S. chlorine manufacturing companies as major mercury polluters. Oceana’s goal is to convert the last mercury-based chlorine factories to readily available, mercury-free technology, which 90 percent of the industry already uses.

Actress/Supermodel Amber Valletta to Serve as Campaign Spokesperson

Amber Valletta, fresh off the hit movie Hitch with Will Smith and star of the upcoming films Transporter 2, Man About Town and Silent, announced today that she will become the spokesperson for Oceana’s Seafood Contamination Campaign, a decision prompted by the mercury-poisoning experience of a friend and the fact that she is a young mother.

“When the effects of mercury-poisoned seafood strike this close to home, it makes you want to do something about it,” Valletta said. “I am happy to help Oceana give young women the information they need to make informed choices about the food they buy to feed their families, and to help in their campaign to stop mercury pollution at the source.”

Savitz welcomed the increased visibility among women of childbearing age that having the supermodel as a spokesperson will bring Oceana’s campaign.

“Amber knows firsthand about the need to make government warnings about mercury more widely known, and we’re thrilled that she has decided to help us take our message to a broader audience,” said Savitz.

For more information about Oceana’s Seafood Contamination Campaign, visit www.oceana.org/mercury.