The FDA doesn’t think canned tuna requires warning labels about mercury – and the law agrees.Click Here
"Mercury is bad and fish is good. We needed to choose the right words that would give people a sense of knowledge without creating unwarranted fear." (Regarding EPA/FDA mercury-in-fish advisory)
-Michael Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2005
The FDA, the Institute of Medicine and the law all agree that canned and pouched tuna products do not require labels about mercury. In fact, they also all agree that labels like this would be bad for consumers and create unnecessary confusion because, in fact, tuna is a “low mercury” fish and leading health experts agree that most consumers should be eating more seafood, including tuna, rather than less.
According to the FDA: “Following FDA’s careful and long-term consideration of the issue, FDA concluded that a consumer advisory is the best method to educate the target population about mercury in fish for several reasons. First, consumer advisories are communicated to the target audience directly. Second, a consumer advisory approach is more effective than a label statement in communicating the complex messages about mercury in seafood. Third, a label statement that reaches the general public can have unintended adverse public health consequences, such as reduced consumption. FDA’s policy approach in the FDA/EPA Advisory specifically avoids warning all consumers in favor of a more comprehensive and targeted approach.”
However, environmental lobbying groups continue to manipulate consumers and public opinion to pressure supermarkets and local governments to mandate warning signs for pregnant women about mercury content in commercial seafood in spite of the fact that the ten most commonly consumed seafood species in the U.S., representing 90% of all seafood consumed in this country, are naturally low in mercury content. And also in spite of the fact that most supermarkets don't even carry three of the four species of fish considered by the FDA to be relatively high in mercury content: shark, tilefish and king mackerel. Unfortunately, these anti-seafood groups are driven by political ideology, not human health.
“Consumption advice is unnecessary for the top 10 seafood species, making up about 80 percent of the seafood market – canned tuna, shrimp, pollock, salmon, cod, catfish, clams, flatfish, crabs, and scallops. This is because the methyl mercury levels in these species are all less than 0.2 ppm and few people eat more than the suggested weekly limit of fish (2.2 pounds) for this level of methyl mercury contamination.”
– FDA Consumer Magazine, September, 1994
Environmental groups have even gone to court in an effort to create specialized warning labels for mercury in tuna. They lost.
In June of 2004, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer joined a lawsuit, originally filed in 2001 by the environmental advocacy group the Public Media Center, that would have required the makers of Chicken of the Sea® , Bumble Bee® and StarKist® tuna to post warning labels wherever canned tuna is sold. Lockyer claimed that the tuna industry had knowingly deceived consumers by not warning them about mercury in tuna, and in the process, had violated Proposition 65, the “Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act”.
The courts disagreed. Judge Robert Dondero of the Superior Court of the State of California in San Francisco found in his ruling that:
"Consistent with its mission and practice, FDA has studied carefully the issue of methylmercury in fish for more than twenty-five years and has developed substantial expertise in analyzing both the scientific and consumer education aspects of the issue. Accordingly, FDA is uniquely qualified to determine how to advise consumers on the issue of methylmercury in fish."
"The objective of the 2004 FDA/EPA Advisory is to inform the target populations of women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and parents of young children as how to get the positive health benefits from eating fish and shellfish, while minimizing exposure to methylmercury. Although the DFA/EPA Advisory may reach people outside these populations, the advisory is targeted to these groups, is very specific that the consumption limitations are just for the target group, and reduces the risk of frightening people who are not at risk."
– Judge Robert Dondero Superior Court of the State of California
City and County of San Francisco
Public Media Center vs Triunion Seafoods LLC
Decision, April 17, 2006
Additionally, in June 2008, Health Canada (the department of the Canadian government responsible for national public health) reached a similar conclusion about the negative effect of signs when it said it would not require labels related to mercury on fish. The Vancouver Sun quoted Health Canada as saying there is no mercury risk to the public from eating fish and cited alternative ways to provide guidance to pregnant women who they agreed would get the greatest benefit from eating fish.
The FDA doesn't think canned tuna requires warning labels about mercury – and the law agrees. To learn more about the California Prop 65 case and to read expert testimony click on the links below: