MSN Lifestyle Article Cans Up Some Alternative Facts

MSN Lifestyle reporter Jessica Suss appears to be caught up in the new alternative facts movement. Her latest article on canned tuna claims in the headline that Research Suggests Canned Tuna Might Not Be Safe to Eat. However… um… yeah… that’s not what research suggests.

Jessica starts her reporting with this blanket statement, “It’s no secret that large-scale fishing operations are bad for the environment.” Really? Since we’re talking about tuna why don’t we look at the very latest in independent research that finds large-scale tuna operations are actually better for the environment than the practices promoted by eco-label initiatives? Maybe a little research into that sweeping claim would have been appropriate, but I digress.

Jessica then asserts that, “current research suggests you can safely eat two meals including canned tuna a week” and then tacks on that “some scientists disagree.”

Let’s look at the first part first. The latest published, peer-reviewed research on this topic comes from the Food and Drug Administration and its study on how much seafood pregnant women can eat. This research is called The Quantitative Assessment of the Net Effects on Fetal Neurodevelopment from Eating Commercial Fish. Perhaps worth a read by someone who is writing on research into seafood consumption.

The FDA’s research finds that pregnant women can eat 56 ounces of canned albacore tuna a week and 148 ounces of canned light tuna. That’s either 14 meals a week or 37 meals a week… not two. And these “limits” only apply to a very specific sub-population: pregnant women. No one else.

Now let’s look at the second part. Here’s where some creative editing and sourcing comes into play. Jessica says research suggests canned tuna might not be safe to eat and she finds a researcher who agrees. But where she finds that researcher is curious. Jessica links to a 2015 article that does in fact include the dissenting position that she advocates in her article but if you actually click on the link and read the article that’s not the narrative you find. In fact, the article finds 3 of 5 experts agree that tuna is safe to eat and concludes that the article is “your green light to go fish.” Not quite the way Jessica portrayed it.

This MSN article lands somewhere between click bait and alternative facts… not great real estate if you’re at all interested in credibility.