An Open Letter to Amber Valletta

Mothers Day message may do more harm than good

May 7, 2008 Washington Just in time for Mothers Day, the eco-lobbying group Oceana has enlisted actress/model Amber Valletta to dole out dietary advice and promote seafood warning signs in stores. But what Ms. Valletta and Oceana havent read is the latest research that shows over 80 percent of moms arent getting enough seafood as it is, and in turn, may be deficient in brain- boosting nutrients for their babies.

Dear Ms. Valletta,

We applaud your interest in promoting a healthy diet for moms and their children, but the very latest research on nutrition is at odds with some of your recommendations.

Three scientific studies within the last two months from the Child and Family Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Wayne State University School of Medicine all conclude that a seafood-deficient diet may hinder optimal brain development for babies.

Non-science-based campaigns that distort concerns about mercury in fish obscure the proven health benefits of seafood. These efforts have an impact on public health, particularly the health of babies and young children. As Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School, was recently quoted saying in Time magazine, we are experimenting with peoples lives when we give recommendations or write stories or reports that make people eat less fish.

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant and young children should continue to abide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations about seafood. This advice, first and foremost, emphasizes the importance of fish for heart health and proper child development, and says women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits.

There are just four fish this special population should avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Of their twelve weekly ounces, women can enjoy up to six ounces of canned albacore tuna. The FDA communicates this advice through targeted health professionals including obstetricians and gynecologists.

Encouraging stores to broadly post signs with nutrition advice that is only targeted at this very specific population has the potential to not only scare moms away from healthy fish, but deter the general population as well, a consequence FDA calls spillover. Signs do prenatal health and public health across the board a disservice.

Jennifer Wilmes, MS, RD
National Fisheries Institute

For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit:


Contact Information

Gavin Gibbons
(703) 752-8891