December 14, 2017

Consumer Groups Sue FDA Over Mercury in Seafood

Earthjustice, along with Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project, are suing the FDA for “failing to respond to a July 2011 petition in which the groups asked the FDA to give consumers clear, accurate, and accessible information about toxic mercury in the seafood they eat.” At this time, the latest recommendations for pregnant women eating shellfish are to avoid certain species, and eat up to 12 ounces a week of other fish. Those recommendations were set in 2004.

Seafood Shrimp LabelingThe lawsuit asks for a court-ordered deadline for the FDA to respond to its request that signs be required at seafood counters and on seafood labels to let consumers know how much mercury is in the fish they buy. The FDA had 180 days, three years ago, to respond to the petition, but did not.

Mercury content in seafood is a concern and has been for years. Airborne mercury comes from coal-fired power plants and gold mining. It falls into the ocean, where it is converted into methyl mercury, which is a neurotoxin. That concentrates in fish and shellfish. Methylmercury exposure is linked to lowered IQ, learning disabilities, and impaired cognitive functioning.

Michael T. Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project said in a statement, “the public – and especially at-risk groups such as pregnant women and heavy fish eaters – urgently need updated information. It is unconscionable that FDA continues to drag its feet when the latest science indicates a far greater methylmercury exposure risk than when the Agency developed its fish consumption advisory in 2004.”

That brochure, called “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish,” established guidelines for seafood consumption. Unfortunately, it tells pregnant women to eat canned tuned, which is now the largest source of mercury exposure for most Americans, and doesn’t give healthier alternatives.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director for Center for Science in the Public Interest said, “Consumers deserve to have the information they need to enjoy heart-healthy seafood while avoiding dangerous mercury – particularly if they are pregnant or feeding young children. It’s FDA’s responsibility to provide that information, and it’s long past time for the agency to do so.”

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