Environmental Defense Fund : In Their Own Words

What They Tell You About:


FishEDF issued an alert that asks, Is canned tuna safe to eat? and warns, Mercury is particularly harmful to children. It can damage a childs nervous system, brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. EDF instructs people to limit their albacore and canned light tuna consumption to a few times per month. For all other seafood, including tuna, EDF urges the public to check its Seafood Selector for a list of the most contaminated fish, and how much can safely be eaten each month (assuming no other contaminated fish is consumed).


What They're Not Telling You

Timothy Fitzgerald, who developed the EDF guide, told the Washington Post the guide does not try to balance risks and benefits because theres no widely accepted way to do that, and we tried very hard not to create our own set of equations, he says.

EDFs messaging just doesnt stack up against advice from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) report, Institutes of Medicine (IOM), Harvard School of Public Health, among others. In that same Washington Post investigation, Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health, a member of the FAO/WHO panel challenged this risk only approach. We have smart, well-meaning scientists who have been educated in this framework, in which you assess risk and come up with tolerable intakes, he says. But thats the wrong framework, he says, because you dont eat pure contaminants, you eat fish, and you cant get the risks without the benefits.

The Washington Post story goes on to point out that not eating fish is also dangerous. As Mozaffarian and his colleagues at Harvard point out, the risk of dying from heart disease is about 50 percent higher among people who dont eat fish than among those who get one or two servings of a high-fat fish each week.

Since the average American eats 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish a year (just under five ounces per week), the risk of too little fish seems to be the bigger threat.

The Tough Questions:
Why does EDF support a fear-based approach to talking about fish when scientists say that does more harm than good?