Shopping for Dinner Shouldn’t Be a Game of Russian Roulette
Many of us here in the U.S. rely on the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that our food is safe to eat — and rightly so, that’s their job. Sadly, the FDA isn’t very good at its job, favoring industry over public safety.
That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity and allies have filed a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s failure to implement stricter standards to protect the public from mercury in seafood. The lawsuit seeks to require seafood sellers to post signs about the danger of mercury in fish, improved health advisories for people most at-risk from mercury exposure and more stringent mercury limits for FDA-approved seafood.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the number one source of mercury exposure for people in the United States is contaminated seafood. The EPA calculates that 15 percent of newborns (630,000) in the United States are at risk each year to neurological defects from mercury contamination.
“By ignoring its own standards and allowing seafood that is high in mercury to be sold, the FDA is putting hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting Americans at risk of permanent nerve damage and cognitive disorders,” said David McGuire of GotMercury.org. “The FDA is putting Americans in harm’s way through its lack of advisories, enforcement and testing of our nation’s seafood supply.”
Mercury contamination of seafood is a widespread public-health problem, especially for women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women and children. Mercury ingestion can lead to memory loss, developmental and learning disorders, vision loss, heart disease and, rarely, death.
“Swordfish and many types of tuna species contain hazardous levels of mercury, yet the U.S. government has failed to take action and continues to allow high-mercury seafood to be sold,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit requests that the FDA review and update mercury standards and policies to bring the allowable mercury levels in seafood in line with levels low enough to protect vulnerable populations, such as children. The petition seeks to cut the allowable mercury level in half, from 1 part per million (ppm) to 0.5 ppm, which would harmonize it with EPA recommendations. Conservation groups also asked the FDA to require seafood retailers to post mercury-in-fish advisories wherever seafood is sold.
Mercury enters our air and water primarily from the burning of coal, which is then ingested and stored in the cells of fish. Some species of fish are more prone to mercury contamination than others, but even small amounts are dangerous to humans, not to mention the havoc mercury wreaks on the environment and wildlife. Please help end this toxic cycle by signing the Center’s petition to cut pollution from power plants.