Environmental Working Group Seafood Report Is A Conspiracy Theory
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), long known for their fearmongering, is at it again, issuing a new report attacking official scientific advice from the U.S. government about the importance of eating seafood to optimize heart health and baby brain development. EWGs conspiratorial argument manages to attack the consensus of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), theInstitute of Medicine(IOM) and theFood and Agriculture Organizationof the United Nations working with the World Health Organization (FAO/WHO), that a fish-rich diet is not only safe and healthy, but essential for optimum health.
EWGs release of this report comes as no surprise the science is settled, USDA has updated its advice and now the only tactic EWG has left is to grasp at the most flimsy of straws in order to defend their anti-science views. Their desperate move is unsurprising, considering their past actions, including leaking a draft report from the FDA looking at the both the benefits and risk of eating seafood during pregnancy and for heart health, in an attempt to smear and taint the draft reports findings before the public could see it. Of particular concern is EWGs allegations about canned tuna, one of the most accessible and omega-3 rich fish available to American families. In their report, they write:
Americans eat more than 400 million pounds of canned imported tuna because it is affordable and can be stored for a long time. Canned tuna is the second most popular seafood in the U.S., after shrimp. An average American eats an average of 2.5 pounds of tuna every year (NOAA 2012).”
So far so good. Tuna IS an affordable food that yields a significant amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to cardiovascular and brain health benefits. But after this first bit of helpful information, EWG jumps off the deep end.
Albacore tuna, also called white tuna, contains significant amounts of omega-3s, but tests indicate that it also contains significant amounts of mercury. Light tuna is usually skipjack tuna but can also contain yellowfin tuna. Skipjack and yellowfin have lower mercury levels than albacore, but fewer omega-3s.
The FDA/EPA fish advisory issued in 2004 said that pregnant women should limit their consumption of albacore tuna to six ounces weekly. However, EWG calculates that if a pregnant woman of light or average weight ate that much, she would exceed the EPA safe level. Children who ate a child-sized serving once a week would also exceed it.
How did they come to these calculations that contradict esteemed government agencies and public health groups? In part using the work of environmental activist Timothy Fitzgerald, who has previously admitted that he makes no effort to balance risks and benefits in his work, a highly unusual thing when giving out health advice.
EWG also fails to note that the EPA safe level for mercury is built with a 10-fold buffer. That means a pregnant woman would have to chronically exceed this level by 10 times to reach a level associated with any known risk, which explains why there has never been a case of mercury poisoning resulting from the normal consumption of commercial seafood documented in any peer-reviewed medical journals in the U.S.
Its no surprise then that a survey of Toxicologists revealed 79% think EWG overstates risks.
So, to help you sort out the EWG hyperbole, here are a few of the facts about seafood and your health:
Researchers at Harvard determined low seafood consumption is the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable death in the U.S. The study found some 84,000 cardiac-related deaths could be prevented each year with a diet rich in seafood.
A long-term study showed that children whose moms cut back on seafood during pregnancy had significantly lower IQs. Those children missed out on key nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids which every major health organization says are essential for healthy brain development.
Another long-term study also found a link between prenatal mercury exposure and improved intelligence at age 17 — likely because mercury in a pregnant womans blood signaled she was eating a lot of fish. The study, published in the journal NeuroToxicology, examined the people of the Seychelles Islands, who eat fish daily and have some of the worlds highest mercury levels — over 10 times that of samples in the United States. Researchers studied the children on the islands and found no consistent pattern of harm from prenatal mercury exposure. In fact, they found evidence of improved intelligence as prenatal mercury exposure increased. Why? Because mercury is a marker for fish consumption, which contains nutrients with long-lasting brain benefits, the researchers said.
Time and again fish lists have only proven to create alarm and confusion deterring American families from eating fish. This is particularly worrisome for a nation where pregnant women eat less than 2 ounces or half of a serving a week of seafood and American families eat less than 15 pounds of seafood a year compared to 70+ pounds of poultry, 100+ pounds of beef and over 600 pounds of dairy. Clearly Americans are not eating enough seafood to be healthy let alone get sick from naturally-occurring elements like mercury which is found in extremely diminutive amounts in all wild-caught fish.
Finally, while all fish may not be created equal when it comes to omega-3, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends seafood choices include those with higher and lower amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but, some choices with higher amounts should be included. All fish are considered an optimum and healthy food choice because it is low in saturated fat and a good source of lean protein and other essential nutrients.
Over half of the seafood Americans eat is farmed fish and therefore not going to deplete the oceans any more than a farmer harvesting his corn is not going to deplete corn supplies. The majority of wild caught fish eaten in America is canned tuna and overseen by notable conservation groups including WWF and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
While fearmongers like EWG continue to push their agenda, independent scientists, the IOM, the USDA and the FAO/WHO have all come to the conclusion that seafood consumption is, by far, a net positive and the real risk to Americans is not eating it. Scientists and health experts dont trust EWG methods and they reject their conclusions. The public should too.