Filed Under: Food Scares Seafood

Scaremongering: Don’t Take The Bait

While we get plenty of mail from fans of Consumer Freedom, not everything deposited in our mailbag smells so sweet. Reader Blake dropped us a line on earlier this month, and his tone wasn’t what you’d call supportive:

Pregnant women or women and young girls who ever plan to have children should never eat fish. Young children should never eat fish PERIOD. And adults should seriously think about the risk of ingesting toxic heavy metal poisons on a regular basis. It’s not fear-mongering, it’s common sense.

Is it not fear-mongering to tell us IN LOUD CAPITAL LETTERS that children should never eat a food that “helps protect against cardiovascular disease and enhances brain development before and after birth?” Is it common sense to ignore the new study from the Seychelles Islands — the results of which indicate that children whose mothers ate lots of fish during pregnancy actually outperformed the children of women who ate less fish while pregnant? (To be fair, the Seychelles news broke after Blake wrote his e-mail, but it’s hardly news that, for example, the children of fish-hungry Japan routinely outperform American children in math and science.)

Blake plays into one of the very problems that was created to combat — the mercury hype that needlessly scares Americans away from eating healthy fish:

It is a fact, fish contain mercury, so I don’t eat fish at all, because I don’t care how much or how little mercury is in my fish. I DON’T WANT ANY MERCURY IN MY FISH! And if that’s too much to ask for, then I won’t ever be eating fish again.

Sad to say, it sounds like Blake’s fish-eating days are over. Fish contains trace amounts of mercury. It always has, largely from natural sources like undersea volcanoes. The only new things under the sun are scientists’ ability to measure mercury, and environmental groups’ penchant for scaring us with the harmless result.

What we hope will calm his mercury fears is the classic toxicology maxim, “the dose makes the poison.” There are trace amounts of all sorts of things in, well, everything. And what’s more, the trace amounts of mercury in fish are hardly a new phenomenon. Alaska’s Public Health Department, for example, reports that when the hair of eight 550-year-old Alaskan mummies was tested for mercury, the results showed levels averaging twice the blood-mercury concentration of today’s Alaskans. Perhaps those paleo-Inuits should have spent their time picketing mercury-spewing undersea volcanoes instead of fishing.

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