Health

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Times Sushi Story Smells Fishy to Some

January 29, 2008 09:24 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Critics say a New York Times story about mercury levels in tuna is sensationalist. A Harvard researcher says the benefits of fish outweigh the risks.

30-Second Summary

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The New York Times is drawing criticism over a story about mercury levels in sushi-grade tuna sold around Manhattan. In October, the newspaper took samples from 20 restaurants and stores and had them tested.

The results, according to the article, showed that mercury levels exceeded government safety levels.

But the Center for Consumer Freedom, a food company and restaurant-backed group, has demanded a retraction. The article, according to the center, didn’t take into account that the government’s part-per-million mercury limit is set at ten times the lowest amount that has been linked to health problems.

“In reality, the highest-mercury sample reported by the Times (1.4 ppm) contains less than one-seventh the amount of mercury that might be a cause for health concern,” said CCF officials in a press release.

Similarly, the National Fisheries Institute called the article “sensational” and highlighted several alleged mistakes.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Harvard’s School of Public Health, told Time magazine that people should continue to eat fish. The health benefits, including omega-3 fatty acids and a link to reduced heart disease, outweigh the possible effects of mercury.

For women who are pregnant or nursing and young children, however, the recommendations are different.

A 2004 Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet advises women in this group to avoid shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish, which contain the highest levels of mercury.

Pregnant and nursing women were advised to eat up to two meals, or 12 ounces, of fish or shellfish with lower mercury levels each week.

Headline Links: ‘High Mercury Levels Are Found In Tuna Sushi’

Reaction: Demands for retraction and skepticism

Reference: Advice from the EPA

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