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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The following is a statement released by Anne Forristall Luke, President, U.S. Tuna Foundation Concerning Defenders of Wildlife Survey of Canned Tuna:
America is in the midst of a health crisis, and an unintended and unfortunate consequence of a report released today by the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project may well contribute to that crisis.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Diabetes is on the rise. Heart disease is the leading killer in America today. Science has shown that fish is a powerful antidote to combat these health problems. Americans need to eat more fish, in the opinion of healthcare and nutrition experts across the country.
But today's report by Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project promises to add to widespread consumer confusion about the safety of seafood and, in the process, do more harm to public health than good for the environment.
Just a week ago, CSPI publicly decried growing consumer confusion about seafood's safety, releasing a survey documenting that mixed messages and lack of clarity are likely leading Americans to avoid eating fish altogether - posing a significant risk to public health.
A.C. Nielsen data shows that, in fact, more than 11 million low-income American families - including a high proportion of those at greatest risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease - have stopped eating canned tuna . Canned tuna has no peer when it comes to the combination of affordability and quality lean protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so when millions of Americans at high risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes stop eating it, the adverse impact on public health can be expected to be significant.
The members of the U.S. Tuna Foundation - Bumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea -- stand by the quality, safety and nutritional benefits of our products.
We advocate responsible government testing of canned tuna for mercury content as well as educating the public. The public can have confidence in the FDA's comprehensive testing program. In contrast to the Defenders of Wildlife 164-can sample, which is statistically insignificant, the FDA tested more than 10,000 cans of tuna before it developed the FDA/EPA advisory that offers guidance to women who are or might become pregnant and small children. The FDA advises this group on the need to safely incorporate fish and canned tuna into their diets and reap its nutritional and developmental benefits. The FDA encourages all other groups to eat more fish, including canned tuna.
We practice responsible stewardship of the oceans; all the products we produce are certified dolphin-safe.
The American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have urged Americans to make fish an essential part of their diet because of its proven health benefits - recognizing that the trace amount of mercury that is naturally occurring and found in most seafood, including canned tuna, is just that - a trace amount. As the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis concluded after a comprehensive study, the benefits of fish consumption FAR outweigh the risk of any harm from the trace amounts of mercury present. In fact, the Defenders of Wildlife acknowledges on its Web site the "well-known health benefits to eating light canned tuna."
We urge consumers to take the time to review the real science, which demonstrates that canned tuna is one of the healthiest foods for Americans of any age. Canned tuna has been a healthy staple in the American diet for more than 100 years and remains so.