In its October 2014 issue, Consumer Reports will publish an analysis of the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) data that supported the agency’s
recommendations for fish intake by pregnant women and children, released
jointly as draft guidance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) in June 2014. The magazine compiled a list of low-mercury—including
haddock, trout, catfish, and crab—and lowest-mercury fish—including
shrimp, tilapia, oysters, and wild and Alaska salmon—and detailed the
amounts considered safe for consumption for young children and women
of childbearing age. The guide includes more conservative advice than the
draft guidance from FDA and EPA, such as recommending that most women
and young children avoid marlin and orange roughy in addition to the listed
swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and gulf tilefish. The magazine cites Deborah
Rice, co-author of the EPA document that established the current limit on methylmercury consumption as 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight
per day. Rice now believes that this limit is too high, pursuant to several
studies reportedly showing that adverse effects can occur at lower mercury
blood levels.

Consumer Reports also recommends that pregnant women do not eat tuna,
departing again from the draft guidance. Even canned light tuna can contain
high levels of mercury because those levels can vary greatly from can to can;
as the magazine reports, “FDA’s data show that 20 percent of the samples
it tested since 2005 contained almost double the average level the agency
lists for that type of tuna. And the highest level of mercury in its samples of
canned light tuna exceeded the average mercury level for king mackerel.”A recent study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa found similar results
for Chilean sea bass. Peter B. Marko, et al., “Seafood Substitutions Obscure
Patterns of Mercury Contamination in Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus
eleginoides) or “Chilean Sea Bass,” PLoS ONE, August 2014. Researchers tested
fish purchased at retail seafood counters in 10 different states and apparently
found that several of the fish were mislabeled as to the source and breed.
Lead researcher Peter Marko argued that fish from uncertified sources were
substituted, and the uncertified fish tended to have “very high mercury.”
Additional information about the FDA and EPA draft guidance appears in
Issues 525 and 526 of this Update.


Issue 535

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.