Something Smells Fishy About Consumer Reports Seafood Article

Highlights: 
  • Risks and benefits of seafood are not balanced in new Consumer Reports article, which was criticized by the FDA
     
  • The average American doesn't eat enough seafood to enjoy its healthful benefits
     
  • Consumption of canned tuna by pregnant women and young children is safe

By now if you’re like me, you’ve probably had it up to here when it comes to hearing about the risks associated with certain foods.  But there are risks associated with everything we do.  The important thing is to ask “do the benefits outweigh the Risks? And when it comes to food, many times the benefits win!

Recently, Consumer Reports posted an article about seafood and mercury exposure.  While it attempted to inform consumers about certain risks associated with seafood, it did a relatively lousy job of balancing the risks and benefits.  In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even criticized Consumer Reports methodology citing that “their analysis is limited in that it focuses exclusively on the mercury levels in fish without considering the known positive nutritional benefits attributed to fish.”

Given today’s hoopla over seafood, here are 3 things you should know about seafood and health to help you feel a little bit better about choosing to eat (more) seafood.

  1. All seafood are not the same.  Many varieties such as the larger, predatory species contain higher levels of toxins such as mercury which occurs naturally in the environment. The larger predatory species include:  shark, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish.  The current FDA / EPA advisory recommends that only certain populations avoid these species as they may be harmful if you eat too much.
     
  2. Eat more fish.  The current FDA / EPA DRAFT advisory recommends consuming 8 – 12 oz. of fish per week which correlates nicely with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. This is the government’s evidence – based nutritional guidance to promote healthful eating.  Moreover, these new recommendations would only mean 2 – 3 servings of seafood per week, which is a shame because we really don’t eat the recommended amount of seafood to enjoy the healthful benefits.
     
  3. Yes.  Pregnant women and young children can eat canned tuna . . . and salmon, shrimp, pollock, tilapia, catfish, and cod.  These species are lower in mercury and can therefore can be enjoyed for both their taste and the nutritional benefits and even growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants and in childhood.

Emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.  The FDA estimates that roughly 20% of pregnant women were not eating any fish for long periods of time during pregnancy and 75% of women were consuming less than 4 ounces per week all the while studies show that pregnant women in particular have consistently found that fish is important for growth and development before birth.

Final point:  Consumer Reports has once again raised unnecessary concern over a healthful and nutritious food and likely scared many consumers – including myself into thinking I’m going to get mercury poisoning.  It’s a shame with so many important issues surrounding us today that Consumer Reports shuns the risk of carelessness for the benefit of a shocking headline! Then ask yourselves, when it comes to seafood and health, is Consumer Reports really providing the most accurate information to consumers?