Resolution Urges FDA to Boost Mercury Awareness

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 10, 2008

The California Legislature on Tuesday approved a measure urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase public awareness of the health risks associated with consuming seafood relatively high in methylmercury.

The California Legislature on Tuesday approved a measure urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase public awareness of the health risks associated with consuming seafood relatively high in methylmercury.

Joint Resolution 57 was sponsored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), who represents Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

The measure calls on the FDA to develop, implement and enforce a mercury-warning system for consumers nationwide; to require restaurant operators and retailers to label seafood that exceeds an amount of mercury deemed unsafe; and to launch an educational campaign to help consumers decide which seafood species are "healthiest for their diet."

"The federal government has issued seafood warnings in the past, yet they are often overlooked or ignored," says Huffman. "I am stunned that not more has been done at the federal level to ensure public safety from this highly toxic and highly consumed chemical."

Methylmercury is a neurotoxin known to slow fetal brain development. The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint advisory in 2004 urging pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age and young children to avoid eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel, to limit consumption of canned albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week and to eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of seafood low in mercury.

"We feel it's extremely important that people have complete information to evaluate the health risks along with the health benefits," says Sharon Marchetti, program manager of Gotmercury.org, part of the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Forest Knolls, Calif., which is located in Marin County. "Alarmingly, the public has been lacking adequate information to determine their mercury exposure as seafood has fallen between the cracks of nutrition labeling and food import safety standards."

California already has a law requiring food manufacturers and other businesses to warn consumers of products containing potentially hazardous ingredients. However, in 2006, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that canned-tuna companies are not required to put mercury warnings on their products under Proposition 65. The case stemmed from a lawsuit former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed against StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea in 2004.

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