FDA sued over mercury-in-fish advisory

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
July 25, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to appropriately warn the public of the dangers associated with consuming seafood high in methylmercury, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

The lawsuit is in response to a 2011 petition submitted by the Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity and Stanford University Environmental Law Clinic, which claim that the FDA failed to responded to the petition within the required 180 days.

The petition seeks to cut the FDA’s allowable mercury level in half, from 1 part per million (ppm) to 0.5 ppm, which the groups claim would harmonize it with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendations. It also urges the FDA to require retailers to post mercury-in-fish advisories wherever seafood is sold.

The lawsuit urges the FDA review and update policies “to bring the allowable mercury levels in seafood in line with levels low enough to protect vulnerable populations such as children.”

Conversely, industry and many lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to update the FDA’s mercury advisory, which warns pregnant and nursing women and young children to limit seafood intake to 12 ounces per week, limit albacore tuna intake to 6 ounces per week and avoid consuming swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish altogether. 

Last year, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Tom Coburn urged the FDA to revise its seafood-consumption advice for pregnant and nursing women in light of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which for the first time encourage consumers to eat seafood at least twice a week for heart and brain health. The lawmakers called the FDA-EPA advisory inconsistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent recommendation, as scientific research confirms that the health benefits of eating seafood regularly far outweigh the risk.

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