Because so many reporters thrive on hype, factually challenged stories about the healthfulness of eating tuna and other fish have (sadly) become routine. As we recently put it, “Bad news makes for better headlines.” But sometimes seafood science is just a little slow to sink in. This appears to be the case with last week’s Associated Press report about the tuna-labeling lawsuit being heard before the California Courts of Appeal. (Click here to read our Special Report on the hearing.)
In the story, AP claimed that “federal agencies advise pregnant women to avoid eating tuna.” This is so far from the truth that the news wire felt compelled to run a global correction today. It read, in part:
The Associated Press reported erroneously that federal regulators warn expectant mothers to avoid canned tuna because its high levels of mercury can cause brain damage. The Food and Drug Administration advises expectant mothers to limit weekly consumption to 6 ounces of albacore tuna or 12 ounces of "light" tuna, the health effects of which are still being scientifically debated.
This correction is a step in the right direction, but it still falls short of telling the whole story. The reason government agencies don’t advise pregnant women to avoid eating tuna is because fish is a health food, not a poison. Harvard researchers found that eating seafood has enormous benefits that contribute to heart health, stroke prevention, and healthy fetal development. These benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the hypothetical risks. Overwhelmingly.
In our latest report, “Tuna Meltdown,” we found that hundreds of thousands of economically disadvantaged American kids have been born without the brain-boosting benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. Why? Because canned tuna was the only source of omega-3s their moms could afford, and they were too scared to buy it.
Media sloppiness (the AP included) isn’t helping correct this crime against public health. It may be true that if news organizations were forced to correct all their errors about seafood consumption, they would have little time for anything else. But given the enormous damage fear-mongering activists are creating, the media has a duty to actively correct bogus rumors — not to publish them.