More Dangerous Misinformation from Consumer Reports

More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration definitively called out Consumer Reports for its feckless and dangerous misinformation on tuna, the group continues to peddle the same pseudo-science to mothers and expectant women.

Consumer Reports packaged its latest attack on public health as a “safety alert”, but in fact it’s a warmed over version of the original, discredited story misleadingly presented as novel work.

The latest FDA advice is that pregnant women are advised to eat 2-3 servings of fish per week to help the brain and eye development of children. And fish consumption has been cited as a marquee dietary factor in preventable heart deaths, with Harvard University estimating 84,000 Americans die each year due to a low seafood diet.

Yet Consumer Reports continues to push hypothetical mercury concerns based on unsound research methods, despite the fact that there has never been a case of dietary mercury poisoning in the United States documented in any peer-reviewed medical literature. The FDA found that 56 ounces weekly of albacore tuna—that’s equivalent to 14-22 tuna sandwiches or more than 11 cans or 21 pouches of tuna)—can be eaten by the most sensitive population; pregnant women. For canned light tuna, that amount is closer to 164 ounces weekly.

Consumer Report’s misinformation drove the FDA to take the significant step of speaking out about the magazine’s harmful advice, calling it “limited in that it focuses exclusively on the mercury levels in fish without considering the known positive nutritional benefits attributed to fish…” The FDA statement goes on:

“[A]s a result, the methodology employed by Consumer Reports overestimates the negative effects and overlooks the strong body of scientific evidence published in the last decade.”

This strong body of evidence includes positive findings from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the American Heart Association, all of which have concluded that the real health risk associated with fish is that people are eating perilously little of it.

Consumer Reports has been wrong before, but in those cases, when it warns readers about certain products—from stereos to toaster ovens, it’s not doing any active harm. What makes their obstinate error on tuna so dangerous is that it actively contributes to an ongoing health crisis, and one that hits our most vulnerable—children and expecting mothers—hardest of all.