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Dr Oz—Way Off On Fish Facts

If any of you saw the Dr. Oz Show (you know the Oprah TV doctor) on Tuesday you probably saw his segment on eating fish. Quite frankly we were surprised at just how off base Dr. Oz was on this one. Getting in bed with environmental activists to gin up a scare story is one thing but contradicting FDA advice, ignoring the American Heart Association's suggestions while confusing and conflating recreational fish studies with commercial consumption is beyond sloppy. Here's our letter to Oz's producer:

January 27, 2010

Laurie Rich

Executive Producer

ZoCo Productions, LLC

VIA Email c/o Jackie Barth

Dear Ms. Rich,

I am writing you about serious scientific inaccuracies in Dr. Oz's January 26, 2010 segment on fish consumption and mercury.

At the outset of the segment, Dr. Oz contradicts the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) advice about eating seafood by saying mercury in seafood is a concern for not only pregnant women and children, but "all of us." The FDA advice clearly states, "for most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern." The CDC study he cites actually says "finding a measureable amount of mercury in blood or urine does not mean that levels of mercury cause an adverse effect."

Dr. Oz then attempts to explain how mercury ends up in the seafood Americans eat, but instead describes how pollution contributes to mercury found in lakes and streams where recreational fish are found, not commercial seafood.  Dr. Oz describes this process as one that contaminates fish found in the ocean.  Fish found in the ocean do contain traces of methylmercury, but it is by in large naturally-occurring from processes like underwater volcanic activity.

The FDA states this in its recently released draft report on commercial fish that "most commercial fish species sold in the United States are harvested from the open ocean or from aquaculture sites. Aquacultured fish tend to be raised and harvested quickly without much opportunity to accumulate methylmercury" and "limited data suggest that methylmercury concentrations in commercial fish have not increased or decreased over time."  Not only is the science clear about this, the California Courts have ruled twice against the State Attorney General over a signage issue on the grounds that virtually all the trace amounts of methylmercury found in ocean fish is "naturally occurring."

Dr. Oz continues to confuse commercial fish and recreational fish when he announces a study shows that almost all "freshwater" fish found in the U.S. have some mercury in them. That is true, but the "freshwater" fish he is describing are recreational fish from lakes and streams and not the commercial seafood he displayed in the studio. In fact, the study he references did not test the types of seafood available in restaurants and grocery stores at all.

The segment took another disappointing turn when Dr. Oz introduced Jane Hightower as an expert in mercury. Dr. Oz appears to either not care or not be aware that Hightower is a physician with ties to radical environmental activists who has made a cottage industry out of "diagnosing" patients with mercury poisoning. Her work and theories are well outside the medical mainstream and have been questioned by her own colleagues.

With Hightower as his guide, Dr. Oz reviewed what he said were symptoms of mercury poisoning. But nowhere did he mention that there have been no cases of mercury poisoning found in CDC records or peer-reviewed medical journals in the U.S. as the result of the normal consumption of commercial seafood.

With his next guest he discusses the ills of eating two fish meals per week, despite the fact that the American Heart Association recommends people eat at least two servings a week and multiple decades-long studies of fish consumption in the Seychelles Islands found residents there ate 12 servings a week and suffered no ill effects.

Dr. Oz then reveals that he has tested fish and found differing levels of mercury in them. However, he never explains the levels he found or how they compare to federal allowable levels. He claims that sushi grade tuna had the highest level which elicits "ooos" from the studio audience. I wonder if they would have been as impressed if he revealed that the FDA tests fish too and found that on average fresh tuna contained 0.383 parts per million of mercury-that's over two and a half times lower than the FDA's allowable level of 1.0 parts per million, which includes a ten-fold safety factor.

Dr. Oz also claims to have tested canned tuna for mercury and notes, again to "ooos" from the crowd, that albacore tuna was found to contain more mercury than light tuna. He does not share the actual levels he found, and again fails to note that the FDA tested canned tuna as well and found the levels in albacore fell nearly three times lower than the FDA's allowable level and levels in light came in at over eight times lower than the FDA's allowable level.

It is irresponsible and incomplete to look only at mercury and ignore the healthy nutrients in fish. The most comprehensive study on this issue, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found "avoidance of modest fish consumption due to confusion regarding risks and benefits could result in thousands of excess coronary heart disease deaths annually and suboptimal neurodevelopment in children."  And a study published in the Public Library of Science recently estimated 84,000 preventable deaths a year are attributable to low omega-3/seafood intake.

Taken together, this evidence points to another public health question that Dr. Oz ought to address: By overstating the risk from methlymercury in commercial seafood, is Dr. Oz engaging in the sort of scaremongering that will steer people away from eating fish and eventually result in more harm to Americans than good?

I urge you to address and correct this issue on the air and on the Web with haste before more detrimental misinformation is propagated.

We have already begun to correct the record with this YouTube video that we invite you to watch and share with interested parties.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Gavin Gibbons

National Fisheries Institute

I am confused. Why are these fisherman writing Doctor Oz instead of their congressmen. The problem here is the pollution (mostly coal burning), making our food supply unsafe because let's fact it, mercury is the second most toxic element next to plutonium and there are absolutely NO safe levels. Dont get me wrong here, I LOVE fish and wish that I could eat it everyday-every single day. However, that isn't possible because I am currently undergoing a medical treatment for mercury poisoning. My mercury poisoning was not caused by fish, it was caused by silver fillings that are 50% mercury (if you don't believe me, check the World Health Organization website, better yet, go to mercurypoisoned.com and watch the banned 60 minutes episode that aired in 1990). You see, I am one of those unfortunate people who cannot properly expel mercury - regardless of the source - and in the U.S, few docs require mercury testing for their patients, so there are probably a lot more like me. One fact that you have wrong: You can't check blood and urine for mercury unless it is for a one time acute exposure-like breaking a thermometer in your home. To properly check for mercury, doctors must either take a hair sample, do a multiple site biopsy, or give patiets a special chelating chemical and measure the urine. Just like with the whole "cigarettes are harmless issue, I don't believe those sources that you quoted. There is too much political lobbying and profits for a true objective stance (just look at the meds that are constantly pushed on patients, only to be recalled months later. When the FDA says that mercury is safe in vaccines, fish, fillings and other stuff, they aren't looking at the big picture. When you combine all of these miniscule amounts of mercury from very common everday sources, you get a nasty cocktail and a sick population, both mentally and physically. Mercury is the EARTH's MOST DANGEROUS NEUROTOXIN, which means that it attacks your central nervous system. Before you start writing letters and shooting the proverbial messenger, do a bit of reasearch and you may find that you are pointing the finger at the wrong party. DR. OZ IS A DOCTOR, MERCURY IS A POISON. HE IS JUST DOING HIS JOB. If you would like more information, check out this article in Discover Magazine. Yep, this one is backed by scientific research. http://discovermagazine.com/2005/mar/our-preferred-poison/?searchterm=me....

I deal with mercury daily in my lighting business and the world is just starting to recognize what we have known for years. This crap is seriously bad.

Where do you think most of our ailments are coming from? They are coming from contaminants like mercury that our bodies cannot process. See we were not designed to consume these foreign particles.

So you can preach all day long about commercial fish vs recreational but ALL fish live in water and all waters are interconnected therefore your ridiculous theory of commercial fish vs recreational fish is completely bogus.

Recreational fish and commercial fish consume the same mercury. Where do you think mercury comes from? Yes the rivers and streams contain mercury and they flow into oceans where they are carried away throughout the ocean.

I do not care what the federal allowable levels are because that agency is influenced by he industry and big money.

Oh and by the way why don't research how much nerve agents and other nasty chemicals the Military just acknowledged they have dumped into our oceans where the "commercial fish" come from before you preach everything is fine and dandy.

Dr. OZ is exposing the unfortunate reality of the world we live in and I guess it rubs some the wrong way. Case and point you?

By the way what industry did you say you are in? Because you went through allot of trouble over show.

Mr. Gibbons
I have the same problems you have. Dr. Oz is causing NYC residents to write letters to the Mayor claiming that the drinking water is making them sick. He is really causing problems. Props to you for contacting the show. Did they get back to you?

The show has not reponded, only sent us to its lawyers. But we'll keep on 'em. Thanks for posting.

INDUSTRY SCOOP

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