San Francisco, CA—Public health groups are calling for tuna companies to end or amend a new advertising campaign that targets women and children, who are most vulnerable to intake of mercury from fish. GotMercury.org and five other organizations sent a letter on March 8, 2011 to the heads of the three major canned tuna companies imploring them to include information about mercury levels in canned tuna as they flood television airways with their multi million dollar marketing campaign called “Tuna the Wonderfish” to boost sales of canned tuna. To date, no representatives from three major canned tuna companies, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea or Bumble Bee Food have responded to the letter.
“Encouraging women and children to eat more tuna just to boost sales and profits is careless and irresponsible, at best, and, at worst, could be contributing to serious health problems, particularly for low-income women who tend to eat more canned tuna” said Buffy Martin Tarbox of GotMercury.org.
The letter was signed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, Food & Water Watch, Parents for a Safer Environment and the Clean Air Council. The letter specifically asks canned tuna companies to make the health of women and children a greater priority and either discontinue the Tuna the Wonderfish marketing campaign or include mercury warnings and information in advertising and on canned tuna products.
Numerous scientific studies point to higher than reported levels of mercury present in canned tuna. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), medical professionals, scientists and consumer groups have suggested that women of child-bearing age and children limit their consumption of tuna due to concerns about elevated mercury levels. Research has shown tuna accounts for nearly forty percent of all mercury exposure in the U.S.
According to the EPA’s data, if a 60-pound child ate one can of albacore tuna, that child would be 215 percent over the EPA’s reference dose for mercury. The EPA has found that 15 percent of babies born in the United States each year have dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies due to their mother’s consumption of fish.