FDA Advisory Fails to Protect Children

By March 19, 2004Got Mercury?

San Francisco, CA– According to its own data, the FDA’s new consumer advisory released today will actually put women and children at serious risk from mercury poisoning. The FDA advisory specifically suggests that it is safe “to eat up to 6 ounces of albacore tuna per week, which, by its own data, is known to contain three times as much mercury on average as chunk light tuna. Environmentalists are calling on the FDA to remove albacore tuna from the list of safe seafood and to require warning signs at seafood counters across the country.

“It’s alarming that this new FDA advisory encourages mothers to continue eating seafood with high mercury levels when there are plenty of low mercury alternatives”, says Peri. “Albacore tuna should not be recommended for women and children.”

According to the FDA’s own data a 115 pound women eating only 6 ounces of albacore tuna would be 170% over what the EPA considers safe. If more fish were eaten that same week that contained moderate or high levels of mercury, her mercury blood would be much higher.

“If my 55-pound son ate the recommended 6 ounces of albacore, he would be exposed to 350% of what the EPA considers safe. How can the FDA issue guidelines that seem to ignore women and children, the two most vulnerable populations?” says Peri.

A recent report by the EPA shows that one out of six children born in the United States have blood mercury levels that are unsafe; this amounts to 630,000 children per year born with potential neurological damage.

Consumers can calculate their own blood mercury levels by visiting an easy-to-use mercury calculator at http://www.gotmercury.org.

“The FDA needs to reconsider its priorities and stop protecting the health of the tuna industry and start protecting the health of the American people. The people of this country need sound guidance and protection from toxins in their food,” says Peri.

Methylmercury—the organic form of mercury found in many species of fish—is a potent neurotoxin that can cause nervous system and brain damage in developing fetuses, infants, and young children. Mercury can cause hair and memory loss, tremors, fatigue and other serious heath problems in adults, too.

Under Proposition 65 the State of California requires warning signs to be posted in areas where mercury-contaminated fish is being sold but the warning applies only to fish containing extremely high levels of mercury. There are no signs in the canned tuna sections, however.

“The FDA needs to require that signs be posted in all stores nationwide so that consumers can be informed and make choices to protect their family’s health.
One way they could protect themselves is if the FDA distinguished between low-mercury, sustainably troll caught albacore tuna and those caught by longlines”, says Peri.

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is a California-based marine conservation organization that works to protect sea turtles and other marine species nationally and internationally. Many seafood species that are high in mercury are caught using longline fishing methods that kill large numbers of sea turtles every year. We work to help consumers find ways to protect their own health by eating species low in mercury (see www.gotmercury.org) and, at the same time by not eating fish such as swordfish, which is responsible for pushing sea turtles to the brink of extinction. For more information about sea turtles and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, please visit: http://www.seaturtles.org

For more information on mercury in seafood and marine species protection, please visit the Sea Turtle Restoration Project website by visiting www.seaturtles.org and clicking on Program and Campaigns then Mercury, Swordfish and Sea Turtles Campaigns or visit: