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Public health and environmental groups issue a letter of support for the Legal Petition filed with the FDA demanding stricter regulations on mercury in seafood

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Commissioner Hamburg,

The public health, environmental and mothers organizations below are writing to urge you to adopt the policy suggestions and recommendations in the Petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate rulemaking to reduce human exposure to mercury levels from commercial fish sold in the United States filed by the public health project Got Mercury.org.

We support the following requested action contained within the Petition:

1)    Reduce the current mercury action level from 1 part per million (ppm) to methylmercury expressed as mercury in excess of 0.5 ppm (edible portion only) to be in line with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for recreation and sport caught fish to protect women and childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women, children and the most vulnerable populations or
2)    Establish by regulation a tolerance level for the presence of methylmercury in seafood that shall not exceed 0.5 ppm (edible portion only) to protect women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women, children and the most vulnerable populations or
3)    Establish a regulatory limit for the presence of methylmercury in seafood that shall not exceed 0.5 ppm (edible portion only) to protect women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women, children and the most vulnerable populations.
4)    Develop and implement a transparent government program of regular, widespread testing of commercial seafood for methylmercury levels.
5)    Enforce the action level, tolerance level, regulatory limit and/or prohibit sale in the U.S. of seafood that exceeds the action level, tolerance level and regulatory limit.
6)    Include advice on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) controls for methylmercury in the Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance.
7)    Require seafood distributors, retailers, restaurants and all institutions that sell seafood to post the FDA/EPA mercury-in-fish advisory at “point of sale” locations and/or label fish products that are known to be high in mercury.
8)    Update the FDA/EPA What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish advisory to reflect lower action or tolerance levels for mercury in fish when adopted.
9)    Revise and update the FDA Concentrations in Fish:  FDA Monitoring Program through conducting new mercury analysis of each fish species listed in the Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish.

Women of child-bearing age in the United States continue to be exposed to potentially dangerous levels of methylmercury in commercial fish without adequate protection, information or warning. Seafood consumption remains the number one source of mercury exposure in the United States.   The FDA’s seafood safety program needs to be strengthened and incorporate new scientific evidence and data about mercury levels in fish, especially tuna.  To ignore science and not update mercury data and standards is potentially putting the public at risk for detrimental and irreversible health problems.

We respectfully request the FDA adopt the policy changes as outlined in this letter and the Petition.  The FDA must improve its seafood safety program to safeguard the health of the public, especially women and children and inform the public of the health risks associated with high mercury seafood.

Sincerely,

Buffy Martin Tarbox
Turtle Island Restoration Network

Catherine Kilduff
Center for Biological Diversity

David Spath
California Public Health Association-North

Deb Self
San Francisco Bay Keeper

Trish Mulvey
CLEAN South Bay

Andria Ventura
Clean Water Action

Pamela King Palitz
Environment California

Kimberly Warner
Oceana

Elizabeth Martin
The Sierra Fund

Sherri Norris
California Indian Environmental Alliance

John Hocevar
Greenpeace USA

Eric M. Reyes
Institute for Socio-Economic Justice

Dr. Jane Hightower, M.D.

Katrien Vandevelde
Belgian Sea First Foundation