Mother Jones “Tuna Surprise” Not Much of a Surprise


Ihave hada look atan advanced copy of the Sept/Oct edition of Mother Jones. And I must say “Tuna Surprise” is not much of a surprise coming from such a blatantly agenda-driven outfit.

As you may have read in my earlier correspondence with MJ we warned the reporter that “it is irresponsible to perpetuate anecdotal tales of high seafood consumption causing health concerns when those types of stories contradict published science showing the health benefits of eating fish at least twice per week.” Well, the very first line of the very first paragraph is… wait for it, wait for it… an anecdotal tale of high seafood consumption causing health concerns. In fact the reporter even mentions our warning to her before later launching into yet another anecdotal tale. That’s before citing Jane Hightower’s work on the issue, a pitfall you will note we warned her against as well when we wrote that “her only published conclusion is that fish consumption was positively correlated with mercury levels in the study group, which does not illustrate anything that is not well known and documented.” And that furthermore her comments to the media were also often, “anecdotal and unsubstantiated by the medical community.”

Remember also, we asked if she had “sought out any independent medical or science sources, besides NFI, that can speak directly to the safety and dietary importance of eating fish?” As is evidence by the article the answer is no. Unless you consider independent a “scientist who has written a report on mercury for the environmental groups Oceana and Mercury Policy Project” or perhaps a doctor who has “made something of a cottage industry out of treating fish consumers suffering from elevated mercury levels.”

Other publications have fallen prey to poor sourcing too and MJ even highlights our efforts to insist that journalists get the story right when reporting on mercury and seafood. However, when they note this the writer claims we’ve waged “aggressive and public attacks” on reporters at The New York Times and USA Today. What she does not mention is that editors ended up running corrections to both of the stories we challenged in those papers. In the case of the New York Times, in addition to the correction, the paper’s own public editor agreed with us and wrote about it in the Times. And while she characterizes our efforts to hold journalists to their own standards as “attacks” she also doesn’t mention that the Times reporting was publicly discredited byTime magazine, and The Center for Independent Media. To my knowledge none of their criticism has been characterized as “attacks.”

Throughout the article there is little if any mention at all of the health benefits of tuna or seafood as a whole. As a matter of fact, a passing reference to omgea-3’s appears to be an attempt to minimize their importance, “low in fat, high in protein, canned tuna contains lots of omgea-3 fatty acids that are thought to protect against heart disease and boost brain development in early life.”

Thought to?

We provided the reporter with links to evidence like the Harvard School of Public Health study that shows that eating two servings of fish per week can cut your risk of dying from a heart attack (the number one cause of death for both man and women in the U.S.) by 36 percent. And links to three scientific studies from the Child and Family Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Wayne State University School of Medicine that all concluded a seafood-deficient diet put brain development in babies at risk. With this ready-made research done for her she basically concludes that omega-3’s are “thought to” have health benefits.

Oh and speaking of health benefits there is an interesting nuance to this edition of MJ. The magazine’s apparent crusading concern for public health is strangely illustrated by advertisements for alcohol and tobacco. And not just any alcohol and tobacco-the booze they advertise for is Absinthe, that’s right the once-banned liquor. And the tobacco they advertise is cigarettes but not just any cigarettes, FREE CIGARETTES. That’s right a full page ad that offers $20 worth of gift certificates for cigarettes.

And no, I am not making this up.