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Our long-time readers will recall how beginning in January 2010, the National Fisheries Institute challenged Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of "The Dr. Oz Show," concerning statements he made about fish and mercury on his program. Since then, we've written Dr. Oz's producers and lawyers on two additional occasions (click here or here). We issued a media advisory and a press release when the original episode, with errors, was re-broadcast in June 2010. In addition, we've also written twice to King Features, the syndicator of his national newspaper column (click here and here), when we discovered errors.
All in all, Dr. Oz has communicated with us only once, with a perfunctory letter sent by one of his lawyers. But while Dr. Oz has been quiet for some time now on the issue, we always keep an eye out, and once again he returned to his old misguided advice about eating seafood when he said the following to a reporter at WPBF-TV in Palm Beach, Florida: "As for canned tuna, indulge just once a week, because it's high in mercury."
The FDA actually says, “For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern.” While pregnant or nursing mothers and young children are advised to avoid four rarely-eaten fish (shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel) the very latest in peer-reviewed published nutrition advice (the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans) is clear, “the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women.”
Compounding the problem: Dr. Oz made the same mistake on his own website and has made no attempt to correct the error.
Dear Ms. Beaudoin,
The National Fisheries Institute suspects that Dr. Mehmet Oz’s continued inaccurate statements about the safety of eating canned tuna might not merely be an uninformed opinion but rather the willful disparagement of a product. On July 19, 2011, while promoting his upcoming fourth season, Dr. Oz told a WPBF-TV reporter, “As for canned tuna, indulge just once a week, because it's high in mercury.” To view that quote in context, please visit http://www.wpbf.com/health/28586046/detail.html.
Since January 2010, we have written to you and other representatives of ZoCo Productions on three separate occasions. Our letters have pointed out that Dr. Oz’s views on seafood consumption are in stark contrast with the Food and Drug Administration’s long-standing guidelines and the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is the current federal nutrition policy. Further, having been informed of — and provided with — the approved FDA language previously, Dr. Oz continues to sow confusion about the safety of canned tuna. The incorrect interpretation of the FDA advisory can still be found on your website. The article in question is at: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/three-dangerous-food-toxins.
The First Amendment allows for uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate on public issues and protects people from legal ramifications unless their speech is both false and made with the knowledge of its falsehood. Since we have been on the record with ZoCo Productions and its employee, Dr. Oz, about this issue numerous times, a reasonable person could be led to believe that his continued campaign against canned tuna is an intentional, reckless disregard for the truth.
Attached are copies of our previous correspondence as well as the government’s official advice on eating seafood, which does not restrict canned tuna or any other type of seafood for the general public. Since “The Dr. Oz Show” is syndicated, we are compelled to inform the general counsels at the networks and affiliates scheduled to broadcast the program about this regrettable situation. They too are ethically and legally responsible for program content. We will also share the previous communications, USDA advice on consumption of seafood and a copy of this letter warning them to scrutinize the show’s content so that they do not broadcast content that misinforms consumers about canned tuna or other seafood products.
With this in mind, we would like to request the following:
Failure to reply to this letter in a timely manner with an assurance that Dr. Oz understands that free speech doesn’t sanction promotion of false information — and with a pledge that he will be judicious when dispensing advice about seafood consumption on his show or at public appearances — will result in a public appeal made through the media and direct outreach to major medical societies and your advertisers.
Mary Anne Hansan
We'll keep you informed as to if/when we get a resp onse.