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New Report – Mercury in Seafood: No Fair Warning

Today, GotMercury.Org released a report revealing continued failure by restaurants and supermarkets to post adequate consumer advisories about potentially unsafe levels of mercury in commercial seafood.

Mercury in Seafood – No Fair Warning reveals the results of a county-by-county restaurant survey of compliance with California’s Prop. 65 law requiring posting of mercury-in-seafood consumer advisory warnings by seafood purveyors. A key finding was that compliance among restaurants jumped to more than 80 percent in response to legal action. See the report. To see the list of restaurants by county, click here.

“With sushi and fish tacos practically a staple in this state, it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to get out warnings about mercury in seafood,” said Teri Shore, Program Director, Gotmercury.org. “But until state lawmakers enforce signage laws or require seafood labeling, we’ll have to rely on the courts.”

Among those monitored chain restaurants that were chronically out of compliance with warning sign mandates, Chili’s, Claim Jumper, Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory, received a grade of “C” or below for compliance. Most counties also received an overall grade of “C” when considering all monitored restaurants.

Got Mercury.Org monitored 332 restaurant and supermarket branches in 27 counties that had settled Prop. 65 lawsuits with the state of California – achieving 85 percent coverage of settling parties. The survey found that only about half of the restaurants that settled California v. Benihana et al. lawsuit by agreeing to post warning signs were in compliance with Prop. 65 requirements. When strictly surveying restaurants offering mercury-contaminated seafood and order to post consumer advisory warnings – swordfish, shark, tuna, tilefish and king mackerel — the number of establishments in compliance rises to 81 percent.

California’s Prop. 65 requires businesses to post warnings about mercury in seafood, but does not mandate monitoring or enforcement except through citizen complaints and legal action. Because of poor compliance by seafood outlets, many people never see warnings about mercury at a restaurant or seafood counter. However, testing has proven that that mercury levels of swordfish and tuna tested from California markets frequently exceed the FDA limit of 1ppm in fish tissue. Mercury in the form of methyl mercury is a potent neuortoxin.

Mercury In Seafood – No Fair Warning also summarizes data from previous monitoring and other actions by GotMercury.org over five years to ensure that pregnant women and children in particular are alerted to the potential harm from eating too much seafood containing methyl mercury.

All the data points to one conclusion: seafood purveyors and public health officials are failing to provide health-minded seafood lovers with fair warning about the possible dangers of eating mercury-laden fish. The solutions are simple: require mercury testing and ban products that exceed safe standards while requiring signage and labeling. GotMercury.org is calling on federal, state and county lawmakers to pass new laws to mandate these actions.