WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In light of yesterday's thoughtful conclusions about seafood and health from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom is urging the Consumers Union of the United States (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine) to withdraw its recommendation that pregnant women completely avoid eating tuna.
Consumers Union Director of Food Safety Jean Halloran reissued her group's needless warning shortly after an IOM committee declared that pregnant women should include fish -- including tuna -- in their diets. The IOM panel comprised distinguished scientists from Cornell; Harvard; Penn; Georgia Tech; Tufts; the National Cancer Institute; and the Universities of Florida, Massachusetts, Miami, Missouri, Nevada and Reno.
"Twelve esteemed scholars say pregnant women can safely eat two cans of tuna per week," said Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko. "But Halloran, whose qualifications are limited to a degree in English Literature, says they're all wet. Who should we believe? If this magazine wants credibility with the public, it should stop scaring pregnant women and bring its recommendations back in line with good science."
If anything, the IOM's conclusion that pregnant women can safely eat two cans of light tuna per week may be too conservative. This advice is based on an Environmental Protection Agency "reference dose" for mercury, which already includes a 10- fold cushion of safety.
In addition, a Harvard study slated for release today from JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) will conclude that if Americans avoid fish consumption because of "confusion" about hypothetical health risks, it "could result in thousands of excess coronary heart disease deaths annually and suboptimal neurodevelopment in children."
Martosko added: "Consumer Reports has contributed as much as anyone to our national confusion about the healthfulness of eating fish. The magazine should go back to rating vacuum cleaners and leave food policy to scientists who know what they're talking about."
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