Today the Center for Consumer Freedom unveils Safe Fish, our comprehensive investigation into mercury levels of fish sold in the Washington, DC area. Working with a well-regarded independent laboratory, we collected 142 samples of canned and fresh fish from three dozen retail grocers in the area around our nation’s capital. Using the published standards of the Food and Drug Administration as a guide, every fish we sampled is safe to eat. Why did we focus on Washington? A little sanity is long overdue in our national discussion about mercury, and these are the same fish eaten by federal regulators and Members of Congress — to say nothing of fishy scaremongers from the DC-headquartered Greenpeace, Oceana, Environmental Working Group, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The FDA writes that its “Action Level” for mercury in fish (set at 1 part per million) was actually set ten times higher “than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.” Adjusting for this ten-fold safety factor, the highest mercury level we found in the Washington area was 350 percent lower than what the FDA believes might represent a health risk for consumers. Notably, tuna, a frequent poster-fish for reckless mercury scare campaigns (see here, here, here, and here for a few egregious examples) was very low in mercury across the board.
Activist groups like Oceana and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project have issued their own surveys of mercury levels in recent months, invariably concluding with calls for new regulations, warning labels, or scary signs on grocery-store fish counters. But as Safe Fish details, every fish tested by these groups — without exception — is also safe to eat. Absolutely none of them identified a single fish whose mercury level represents a health concern.
The national battle over mercury in fish has been riddled with broadsides from environmental activists whose pronouncements often indicate a lack of scientific understanding or an agenda-driven desire to mislead the public. These campaigns, according to former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis Sullivan, are “scaring people away from a healthy food.”