Fish processors tackle ads

Related tags Salmon

Major processors of canned tuna in the US have described a recent
ad campaign by environmental activists as being "an
irresponsible and highly inflammatory tactic" that will scare
consumers away from what they call a safe and healthy food. This is
not the first time that the issue of fish safety has courted
controversy, writes Anthony Fletcher.

The industry believes that the advert, produced by MoveOn.Org with the Environmental Working Group Action Fund and the Natural Resources Defence Council, uses distorted statistics regarding the potential risks associated with eating fish that have been publicly disavowed by EPA as not representing the agency's position.

"These organisations are providing a terrible disservice to the American public by scaring consumers away from a safe and healthy food to advance their political agendas,"​ said Dennis Mussel, president and CEO of Chicken of the Sea International. "The American public needs to understand the real motives behind these ads, which have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with children's health."

The canned tuna industry also challenges the environmentalists' claim that 630,000 US babies may be exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that would put them at risk of neurological problems. It says that no one in the US has been shown to have anywhere near the amount of mercury in their system from eating seafood known to cause a health problem.

This is supported by a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found all of the women and children studied were significantly below any known adverse effect level (confirming no one is at risk).

"While we support the concept of a 'target', what we don't support is then having the environmentalists say that anyone over that 'target' number is at risk ... when in fact, they're nowhere even close to the real risk level,"​ said Chris Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Seafoods. "This is a shameless attempt to come up with a statistic of 'hundreds of thousands of babies' to promote their agenda, when it is not at all based on the real science."

This is not the first time that the issue of fish safety has been raised. A recent article published in the journal Science,​ which claimed to be 'the most comprehensive analysis to date of salmon toxin concentrations,' found levels of harmful dioxins and PCBs that were significantly elevated in both European and North American farm-raised salmon when compared with wild Pacific salmon.

But the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) responded swiftly by arguing that the levels of dioxins and PCBs found in farmed salmon during the US led study were within World Health Organisation and EU guidelines.

"This study shows that the levels of dioxins and PCBs in salmon are within internationally recognised safety limits and confirms previous studies by the FSA,"​ said agency chairman Sir John Krebs. "Our advice is that people should consume at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily like salmon."​ Now the EU has entered the fray by throwing its weight behind the FSA. EU health and consumer protection commissioner David Byrne said: "We agree with the assessment made by the UK FSA that the levels [of chemicals] in our European salmon do not exceed EU limits."​ Interestingly, supermarkets in the UK have reported that the latest food scare has not deterred most shoppers, and said that sales had actually risen in some outlets.

The contradictory advice from the US scientists and from the UK and EU authorities reflects a differing view of how to assess food safety. The North American study assumes that any level of exposure to dioxins carries with it some risk, however small, of developing cancer. British and EU scientists accept the World Health Organisation assessment that, provided exposure to dioxins is kept below a certain threshold, there will be no adverse effect to health.

Related topics Suppliers

Related news

Follow us


View more