Press Release

Madison ‘Consensus’ on Mercury in Fish is Obsolete, Wrong-Headed

WASHINGTON — Today the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) argued that a scientific “consensus” statement about trace levels of mercury in seafood, promoted this week by the activist Mercury Policy Project, should be withdrawn and updated.

Known as the “Madison Declaration,” this statement was first released in March 2007, following an August 2006 conference in Wisconsin’s capital. During the intervening months, however, several studies were released which strongly contradicted the Declaration’s central findings, making it obsolete the moment it came out. CCF detailed these lapses last year in a report titled “Seafood Science Since Madison: What’s Really Happening in the Great Mercury Debate.”

The Mercury Policy Project is promoting the Madison Declaration in order to defend recent irresponsible science journalism from Newsweek and The New York Times, which erroneously claimed that trace levels of mercury in seafood pose a genuine health risk to consumers.

What the Madison Declaration ignored:

(1) There are no medically documented cases of mercury toxicity from eating fish in the United States in the scientific literature.

(2) The largest study of its kind, published in February 2007 in The Lancet, determined that pregnant women can best protect their unborn children by eating considerably more fish than U.S. government guidelines recommend.

(3) An October 2006 Harvard study published in JAMA found that the documented health benefits of eating fish far outweigh any hypothetical risks.

(4) The Institute of Medicine, also in October 2006, cautioned that posting mercury warnings in public places results in a “spillover effect,” scaring away Americans who have no reason to heed warnings about hypothetical fish-related health risks.

(5) In the March 2007 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers who conducted a study of health risks associated with mercury conceded that their observations in the Faroe Islands were related to the consumption of whale meat, not fish. This is the study on which the EPA’s hyper-cautionary “reference dose” for mercury is principally based.

“The scientists who put their name on the Madison Declaration have a lot of catching up to do,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “Scaring Americans away from the fish counter by hyping obsolete studies and ignoring current science isn’t very responsible.”

Founded in 1996, the Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices. For more information, visit


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