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The Raw Story for CA – Hold the Mercury on Sushi

January 24, 2008

Los Angeles, CA – Fresh isn't always better when it comes to fish in California. Random testing of fresh fish from grocery stores and sushi bars shows some are so contaminated with mercury that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could legally stop the sale. A third of sushi tuna met the extreme danger threshold; grocery store tuna steaks tested were, on average, almost double the FDA "safe limit" for mercury content. Michael Bender, of the Mercury Policy Project, says the results show that consumers need more information to make healthy choices.

"The average consumer is playing Russian roulette with fish consumption because nobody's telling them which fish have higher, or lower, mercury levels."

While the FDA does issue safety guidelines and test fish for mercury levels, Bender says the the agency does not routinely share that information with the public, or require it to be posted. Bender adds his group's testing showed that sushi mackerel, salmon, shrimp and tilapia are less likely to have high mercury levels.

Bender says mercury exposure has become such an important health issue that many of the biggest grocery stores have posted advisories at the fish counter.

"The chains are recognizing that there's a legitimate issue here and are voluntarily letting the public know. I would hope that there would be a similar initiative from the restaurants."

The full report is available online at Deborah Smith/John Robinson, Public News Service - CA