Filed Under: Food Scares Seafood

Keeping Our Menus Safe From Shamu

Do you eat whale meat? Probably not, if you’re an American. But if you’ve been following the recent seafood battle between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), chances are you will still be interested to hear the latest news from researchers in the Faroe Islands: The mercury-related health hazards that were identified several years back in an ongoing study of this island population were officially caused by eating pilot whale. Not fish.

The Faroe Islands seafood study was the last leg of scientific support for the EPA’s mercury “Reference Dose.” And that Reference Dose is just about all that’s holding up the federal government’s 2004 seafood advisory. If basing fish warnings on the dangers of eating pilot whale doesn’t sound sensible to you, you’re not alone. We’ve been saying it for years, and it looks like the FDA may be poised to join the scientific consensus about seafood and health.

In fact, the latest on the ongoing Faroe Islands research couldn’t have come at a better time. As the dispute over an FDA draft report urging the EPA to amend its overblown seafood advisory approaches a boiling point, this rehashing of the difference between whale meat and commercial fish should be enough to topple the house of cards supporting the EPA advisory.  Environmental Health News reports:
The risk of heart disease increases in men who eat mercury contaminated seafood — in this case whale meat…
This unique study looked at a group of 42 Faroese whalingmen aged 30-70 years old. More than half (26, or 63% of the men) ate "3 or more whale meals per month." The researchers investigated if long-term exposure to mercury by eating pilot whale meat led to adverse heart related health effects, such as heart attacks.
Why does it matter whether mercury comes from fish or whale? Simple: Whale meat is typically contaminated with a laboratory’s worth of toxic chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and even rocket fuel and other refined petroleum. If someone on an all-Shamu diet gets a little dizzy, it’s simply impossible to know which of the dozens of foreign chemicals may have been the cause. Sounding the mercury alarm makes about as much sense as scaring Americans away from fish in the first place.

Pilot whale. Not sushi. ( Sorry, Jeremy Piven.)

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