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This Enviroblog post has not been funded by the seafood industry

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pregnant and nursing women should limit fish consumption.So, the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies coalition has issued a recommendation that women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning on becoming pregnant should eat at at least 12 ounces of fish per week -- including mackerel and tuna. The recommendation goes directly against the standing government guidelines, which advise women to eat no more than 12 ounces per week, and to avoid fish known to be high in mercury concentration -- including none other than mackerel and tuna.

Who belongs to the coalition? According to The Washington Post, "top scientists from private groups and federal agencies." What the paper forgot to mention in its front page story (in which it paid considerable lip service to a recommendation which goes directly against government recommendations) was the coalition's silent partner. The "review" was funded by the National Fisheries Institute, the preeminent seafood industry advocacy group.

Sounds pretty fishy, but evidently industry-funded science doesn't set off any alarms at any of the host of mainstream media outlets covering the story yesterday. Most of them treated the news as a mandate from heaven, even after it was revealed during the press briefing that the organization had received funding from the seafood industry.

This is a straightforward case of science-for-hire: the seafood industry wanted to boost sales, so they hired a review panel to recommend that women eat more fish -- and the media bought it hook, line and sinker.

If media's only requirement is that a handful of people with degrees back a statement, what will tomorrow's headline be?

Courtesy of the tobacco industry:

"Cigarette smoking improves lung function"

Or the alcohol industry:

"Whiskey helps stem liver failure"

Or the auto industry:

"Safety belts increase risk of accident fatality"

Let's be honest: smoking cigarettes can give you cancer, if you have liver problems you shouldn't be drinking, and use of safety belts has reduced accident fatalities by 45 percent. According to the EPA, 1 in 6 babies born in this country are already at risk for developmental disorders caused by mercury exposure, and increasing fish consumption would just put more kids at risk. Pregnant or nursing women should not consume more than 12 ounces of fish per week, no matter what the seafood industry says.


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