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8 Facts the FDA Does NOT Want You to Know About Canned Tuna
Americans consume more than one billion pounds of canned tuna every year, yet most people are unaware of the neurotoxic risks from exposure to mercury contained in canned tuna.
For the two most sensitive populations - pregnant women and young children - canned tuna is consumed at alarming rates; it is the most frequently consumed fish among women of childbearing age, while children eat more than twice as much tuna as any other fish. In addition, according to the 1998 Annual Report on the United States Seafood Industry, statistically, Americans eat canned tuna meals more frequently than all other fish meals combined. With these specifics in mind, here are 8 facts the FDA does not want you to know about canned tuna:
The FDA has woefully failed to acknowledge the potential dangers of “white” tuna.
While the FDA has known for over a decade that levels of mercury in “white” (albacore) tuna are at least double the levels in “light” tuna, the agency has failed to acknowledge or even address this - even though 11 states now warn sensitive populations to limit canned tuna consumption and several warn that mercury levels in white tuna are much higher than light tuna.
The FDA admits to its own lack of consumer protection and education.
By FDA scientist’s own admission, 30-50 percent of American women remain unaware of the mercury exposure risks from fish consumption. The FDA simply chooses not increase educational campaigns or protection measures even at the prompting of U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
The FDA has made unfounded claims at what levels new and unborn children can endure mercury exposure.
FDA officials have acknowledged that none of the studies of mercury have shown the level at which newborns can tolerate exposure. The fact remains that mercury is a neurotoxin and is unequivocally unhealthy to ingest at any level.
The FDA chooses to align with the tuna industry over the general public.
Unfortunately, FDA’s apparent allegiance to the fishing industry has so far resulted in a public health breakdown of critical proportions. This breakdown places more than 300,000 children each year at risk of mercury poisoning, and endangers millions of people who routinely consume larger predatory fish like albacore “white” canned tuna.
The FDA has shown a history of inaction on the issue of mercury in fish.
Despite promises that it would prioritize mercury seafood issues, the FDA has ignored and skewed the findings of focus groups, committee recommendations and reports for far too long. There has been a pattern of this occurring for more than two decades. In 2000 and 2001, the FDA ignored significant reports put forth both by the National Academy of Sciences and U.S. General Accounting Office respectively.
The tuna industry cares only about their bottom line.
The tuna industry has publicly campaigned to urge consumers to ignore concerns about the link between seafood consumption and neurodevelopmental disorders. As recently as May 15, 2003, the US Tuna Foundation issued a press release endorsing the view that “canned tuna, which contains only trace amounts of mercury, poses no health risks… Canned tuna is one of the safest, healthiest foods on the market today.” This in spite of FDA acknowledgement that none of the studies of mercury have clearly shown the level at which newborns can tolerate exposure.
The FDA has a proven history of Procrastination.
Since July 2002, the FDA has continued to procrastinate on implementing the recommendations of its own Food Safety Committee that it specifically requested - even though Joseph Levitt, Director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and top official at the time in charge of the Agency’s mercury policy, publicity agreed that the Committee’s findings were significant and that FDA would be “taking the advice to heart.”
Mercury exposure from canned tuna has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities.
In low-income communities, canned tuna is consumed in higher quantities because of its affordability. Unfortunately, the Federal government promotes unsafe mercury exposure through its Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program, which serves more than 7 million people each month. Because poultry and meat are not included on the list of potential items that may be purchased using WIC benefits, canned tuna is one of the primary animal proteins purchased through the program.
The Bottom Line.
Quite simply, the FDA CANNOT be relied upon to protect consumers from the potentially debilitating health effects of mercury in fish.
All information contained herein from the Mercury Policy Project/The New England Zero Mercury Campaign (www.mercurypolicy.org) educational report: Can The Tuna: FDA’s Failure to Protect Children From Exposure to Mercury in Albacore “White” Canned Tuna, June 19, 2003
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