Lawmakers to Obama: Update seafood advice


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
June 1, 2011

Thirteen U.S. legislators are calling on the Obama administration to resolve discrepancies between agencies when it comes to seafood-consumption recommendations for pregnant and nursing women.

Since 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have jointly warned 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 due to the health risks associated with the neurotoxin methylmercury.

In late January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advised all Americans, including pregnant and nursing women, to eat seafood at least twice a week for heart and brain benefits as part of its updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Then on Thursday, the USDA unveiled its new MyPlate icon encouraging a healthy diet, scrapping the “food pyramid” that it had used for decades.

Last week, the 13 U.S. legislators addressed a letter to President Barack Obama urging the FDA, EPA and USDA to get on the same page.

“Recently, the FDA acknowledged that there are concerns that its 2004 advice has become outdated based on the science that was used to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, the FDA has written to the Senate indicating it will wait for up to a year before ‘determining if updates or modifications to the advice are appropriate based on the best science available’ while it completes a risk-benefit assessment which was initiated five years ago,” said the letter.

“This creates an unacceptable situation where FDA may be two to three years behind [the Department of Health and Human Services] and USDA in updating its nutrition advice, leaving pregnant women with outdated advice and physicians with confusion over whether to advise pregnant women based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines or the 2004 FDA advisory.”
The letter urged the FDA to “expeditiously” complete its risk-benefit assessment on seafood consumption and update the 2004 advisory.

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R.-Ga.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) were among those who signed the letter.

In Mid-March, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) also urged the FDA to update it advisory.

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