FDA Investigates Benefits, Dangers of Eating Fish

FDA Investigates Benefits, Dangers of Eating Fish
“Consumers Should Not Be Scared Away from Health Benefits of Fish”

Washington, D.C., April 21, 2009—The Competitive Enterprise Institute today praised a new Food and Drug Administration report examining the net health effects of seafood consumption.  Despite ongoing concern about the presence of small levels of methylmercury in seafood, the FDA’s draft Risk and Benefit Assessment concluded that cardiovascular and neurodevelopmental benefits of eating most fish species outweigh any potential harms.  In comments submitted to the agency today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute applauded the agency for making an important contribution to public health.

“Although the FDA’s periodic advisories on fish consumption have emphasized the remote risk of mercury exposure, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence suggests that consumption of most commercial fish species provides substantial net health benefits,” said CEI Senior Fellow Gregory Conko.  “The American Heart Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been urging consumers—especially pregnant women—to eat more fish, not less.  So, it’s refreshing that the agency has finally begun to provide balanced and scientifically-validated information.”

A 2006 report from the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine, urged the FDA to find a better way “to characterize the risks combined with the benefits” derived from eating commercial fish species because consumers may be put at greater risk from reducing fish consumption than from consuming seafood that contains methylmercury at the levels currently found in most commercial fish species.  The agency’s draft report was completed in December and opened for public comments until today.

“Critics have characterized the report as an effort to mislead consumers about mercury in fish,” said Conko. “But, public health policy should never be based on a systematic failure to consider both sides of the risk equation.  Giving consumers only half the relevant information is misguided and puts them at heightened risk.”

Read the CEI public comment to the FDA.