Earlier this year NFI tangled with the Las Vegas Review-Journal over its reporting on a University of Nevada Las Vegas study about mercury in canned tuna. You can click here and here to read the letters that we sent to reporter Keith Rogers and the newspaper's Managing Editor, Charles Zobell.
If you don't recall, the UNLV study claimed that 55 percent of the canned tuna the school tested exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety level for mercury in fish of 0.5 parts per million.
There is a fairly simple problem with the study's conclusion and subsequent reporting: the EPA safety level for mercury in fish is 0.5 parts per million and is designed to aid in the regulation of industrial facilities like power plants and incinerators. It is not a level used in relation to human consumption of commercial seafood.
That sort of regulation has been the sole province of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA’s level is 1.0 parts per million and was designed with human health in mind. Additionally it includes a 1,000 percent safety factor. That means before consumers would begin to approach mercury levels of concern they would have to be exposed to 10 parts per million of mercury over an entire lifetime, not simply from one single can of tuna or piece of fish.
Unfortunately, a little less than nine months later, we see that one of the great names in American publishing, Good Housekeeping, has taken a couple of sentences from the UNLV study and made a recommendation that could very well dissuade its readers from eating tuna, one of the healthiest lean proteins around that is also one of the best sources of both omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D.
The short piece, written by Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietitian and Nutrition Director from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, simply repeats the UNLV findings and neglects to mention any of the facts we presented to the reporters and editors at the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year. Ms. Cassetty’s write-up does not explain the difference between the EPA and FDA level or how they are used, nor did she appear to investigate it—an unsettling lack of research that, quite frankly, calls into question just how much the vaunted "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," is really worth.
And for the devil-is-in-the-details file we also noticed; Cassetty neglected to specify that the study in question was published by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas: UNLV and not simply the University of Nevada which is in Reno.