New York Times Got Sushi Story Wrong
Reporting errors causing unwarranted health scare
The National Fisheries Institute cautions local news outlets against
planning to replicate the erroneous New York Times story about mercury
in sushi and encourages them to contact NFI for the facts.
We hope news outlets will not fall into the sensationalist trap
that the Times did and get the facts about the science correct before
they needlessly alarm people, said NFI spokesman Gavin Gibbons. Its
a lot easier to get it right the first time than it is to issue a
In a letter to the Times NFI explained that its reporting is at odds
with widely accepted science which concludes that tuna and other kinds
of fish are a safe and essential part of a healthy diet. In addition
the story grossly misrepresented federal mercury guidelines and
unnecessarily alarmed readers when it failed to mention acceptable
EPA/FDA mercury levels have a ten-fold safety factor. One piece of fish
exceeding the federal action level does not translate into a health
risk for consumers. A person would need to eat fish that exceeds the
action level by ten-fold every day of his or her life to approach a
mercury level of concern. The Times has already agreed to run a
correction about its misrepresentation of federal mercury guidelines.
The sourcing found throughout the report is almost completely
one-sided. Aside from the Environmental Protection Agency and
restaurants whose sushi was tested by the Times, the only other quotes
in the story come sources with clear self-interests and or activist
groups engaged in both lobbying and fundraising against coal fired
power plants, a source of mercury.
And now the fallout begins. An article that appeared in the Times on
the very next day mocked the papers own investigation with quotes from
undeterred sushi eaters. While Time Magazine went further with an
article titled The Danger of Not Eating Tuna.
I know I sound
like I’m trying to downplay the risk but I really think we are
experimenting with people’s lives when we give recommendations or write
stories or reports that make people eat less fish. We know from very
good human studies that fish intake reduces the risk of dying from a
heart attack by about a third. And heart attack is the number-one cause
of death in the U.S. among both women and men, the magazine quotes
Harvard researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.
Please visit www.aboutseafood.com for a list of independent experts in the field of seafood safety and mercury.
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