New USDA Food Pyramid Puts Children at Risk

By April 23, 2005Got Mercury?

Recommendations directly contradict Mercury Advisory

San Francisco, CA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its new food pyramid earlier this week, with recommendations that included the consumption of swordfish and tuna both of which contain high levels of mercury. The Food Pyramid ( is in direct contradiction of the FDA and EPA, which advise women and children to avoid swordfish and limit their consumption of albacore tuna.

“It makes no sense that the USDA is suggesting that people eat fish that are contaminated with toxic methylmercury” say Andy Peri, a health analyst with Turtle Island Restoration Network. “The USDA should immediately remove swordfish and tuna from their website and other literature, and suggest healthier options.”

In a March 2004 joint advisory, the FDA and EPA warn women of childbearing age and mothers to not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish and to limit their consumption of albacore tuna because they contain high levels of mercury. Ironically, the FDA/EPA advisory is linked from the USDA Food Pyramid site.

If a 120 pound women were to follow the advice at, choosing swordfish for her protein she would be exposed to mercury levels that are 430% of what are considered safe by the FDA/EPA. Such a diet high in mercury-contaminated fish would put a nursing baby or a child in the womb at great risk of neurological damage. A 60-pound child following this advice would be exposed to 860% of the safe level. Children are not the only populations at risk from methylmercury, however.

A new report by the Research Institute of Public Health in Finland shows a significant increase of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks in men with elevated mercury levels.

Fish consumers can calculate their mercury exposure by visiting an online mercury calculator at The calculator allows consumers to choose the lowest mercury fish while avoiding fish with the highest levels of mercury-contamination.