This is not the first time, in reference to a community of extremists, I have noted a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein. It goes something like this, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Jane Hightower, noted mercury media gadfly, is doing with her petition to the FDA. Hightower’s campaign to encourage irrational fears about the normal consumption of commercial seafood based on allegations that contradict the scientific mainstream are now part of an effort to waste precious resources at the FDA. She has requested the agency consider a policy that requires warning signs on seafood products and in stores – a request made time and again in different venues and rejected.
Hightower cronies used the exact same allegations in a California lawsuit against canned tuna and they lost that fight… twice. Then in Texas activists made a push for signage that was defeated in the state legislature. They then took their tired, now marginalized, arguments to the Conference for Food Protection, a group of food safety experts who provide recommendations on how states should regulate and inspect restaurants and grocery stores as part of the FDA's Model Food Code, and they were sent packing there too.
While the Hightowers of the world have monotonously and ineffectively repeated their mantra and buried their collective heads in the sandy abyss that is out-of-date-science, up-to-date-science has essentially lapped their arguments.
In January 2010, a commission of the World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said it’s time governments change the way they communicate about seafood consumption or risk avoidable public health consequences. Their message? Tell consumers to eat more fish because the risk is in not eating enough.
In January 2011, the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans came to the clear and concise conclusion that “…even for pregnant women, the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks.”
Despite the claims of harm cited by Hightower and her extremist pals, they know there’s no evidence of mercury poisoning from the normal consumption of commercial seafood in the U.S. in any peer-reviewed published medical literature.
Hightower’s FDA filing means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. The FDA has been conducting a risk/benefit analysis of seafood for, literally, years and the USDA just finished its two-year review of seafood science and concluded just the opposite of the Hightower rhetoric. I could petition the FDA to slap a warning label on bottled water that notes the contents are a potential choking hazard if consumed. But review of such a petition would, of course, be a complete waste of FDA’s time.
Better regulation through wasting FDA’s time with a baseless publicity stunt? Now that’s a food safety approach I had not heard before.