A new study suggests pregnant women should eat more fish than government agencies advise. But look who's talking.
The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies coalition produced the study, with funding from the National Fisheries Institute. But wait, isn't that the advocacy arm of the seafood industry? The NFI website says the group is "A trade Association committed to assisting its members to succeed in the global seafood marketplace." Hmm...is that a conflict of interest? Might the advice be skewed to assist NFI members to succeed in the marketplace?
The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies coalition looks credible with membership that includes the American Academy of Pediatrics and the March of Dimes, the Centers for Disease Control, and subunits of the National Institutes of Health. Interestingly, some of the most credible coalition members are now backing away from the new mercury advice, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the March of Dimes, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health.
At this time, with the story just hours old, we can't be sure what the truth is. This will take some time to sort out. But the new "eat more fish" advice is not quite what it seemed earlier today, and I have a feeling this is going to play out badly for the seafood industry.
I love fish, I eat a lot of fish, and I think it's healthy food. But I know a bit about mercury in fish and my wife is an environmental toxicologist and we agreed she should not eat fish just before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and while nursing because we studied the risks and the mercury risk is too high. Now she gladly eats fish again with me. We're very cautious in what seafood we feed our young children (3 and 6 yrs old).
Mercury risks in seafood are real. They shouldn't scare people away from seafood. But the seafood industry MUST BE STRAIGHTFORWARD AND HONEST about these risks or they may burn bridges with consumers. Mercury in seafood is a real risk to pregnant women. Admit it and move on.
Will this new advice turn into a fiasco that harms public confidence? It's too soon to tell. But the National Fisheries Institute isn't doing the industry any favors with this apparently ham-handed effort to push seafood on pregnant women.
Blogfish has been here before, and I think we'll end up back here again, on the seafood/mercury carousel.