Leaked FDA documents reveal last-ditch effort to put tuna and swordfish profits first

Mothers and children would be encouraged to eat unsafe levels of toxic tuna and swordfish and never warned about high levels in mercury in fish under a last-minute effort to do away with public health advisories for mercury in fish by the Bush’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). West Coast women and others who already have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood would no longer receive any public health warnings about how eating mercury-laden fish could harm their children and unborn babies. See the article and documents at Environmental Working Group.

“This is outrageous and another last minute attempt by the Bush Administration to enrich its big-business friends, in this case ‘Big Tuna’ by ignoring science at the public’s expense,” said Teri Shore of the GotMercury.org, a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network of Forest Knolls, CA. “If we need to go to Court over this, we are prepared to do so.”

Ignoring new research and bowing to tuna and swordfish industry false claims that eating mercury in fish is harmless to mothers, pregnant women and children, the FDA wants to abandon the four-year old public health advisories that warn against consumption of swordfish, tuna (fresh, canned and albacore), shark, tilefish and king mackerel.

Mercury in the form of methylmercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause slow growth and lowered IQ, brain and kidney damage, cancer, and an increased risk of heart disease, according to numerous studies. As many as 630,000 or 15 percent of newborns in the U.S. are at risk each year of neurological defects due to mercury contamination, according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Most large-species tuna and swordfish sold in the U. S. typically exceeds the FDA’s for mercury in commercial fish at 1 part per million mercury – which is double the amount allowed by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency for recreational fish and the governments of Canada, Japan and the European Union. The FDA has never developed a “safe level” for mercury blood levels in people.

The FDA standard is more than 30 years old and is based on bad science and industry interference that dates to a 1971 lawsuit between Anderson Seafoods and the FDA. The standard is based almost entirely on faulty field research from a mercury poisoning in Iraq that never established minimal-effect or no-effect levels for mercury exposure. This is documented in the new book “Diagnosis Mercury” by Dr. Jane Hightower of San Francisco.

Gotmercury.org publishes a free online mercury calculator for people to estimate mercury exposure from fish and has worked with the state of California on legal actions to require public warning signs to be posted at seafood restaurants and stores. It advocates for seafood testing for mercury, labeling and the slashing of allowable mercury levels in fish to .5 ppm or less.

Last year, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Joint Resolution 57 authored by Jared Huffman that urged the FDA to take stronger action to warn people about mercury in fish.