USA Today Botches Consumer Reports Reporting

August 28, 2014

David Callaway

Editor in Chief

USA Today

Dear Mr. Callaway,

I was disappointed to find numerous, troubling issues associated with Linda Lombrosos article Pregnant women should not eat tuna: Consumer Reports.

The article begins by simply noting that, the new advisory goes against current FDA and EPA recommendations. The context for the clear contradiction in advice is totally missing. The recommendations given by the FDA and EPA are based on a 10 year review of 110 published, peer reviewed studies. The volume of time, attention and resources given to the FDA/EPA study absolutely dwarfs any review a consumer electronics magazine could accomplish, yet both are given equal editorial weight. Such misrepresentation does your readers a disservice.

To be clear, an opinion expressed by a consumer magazine and a decade long, published, peer-reviewed investigation by the worlds preeminent food and environmental safety regulators are not, and should not be reported on as, equal parts in a so called debate. The relevant scientific bodies and regulators have ruled on this issue and that ruling clearly contrasts what Consumer Reports writes. Lending disproportionate weight to one side in order to propagate a debate so Gannett might be afforded the ability to report on a controversy is an unfortunate failure of journalism tenets. From a ground truth science perspective there is no genuine controversy here. From an overly simplistic narrative designed to feed an audience digestible pop-culture friendly reports, perhaps there is a controversy. We expect better from Gannett.

Accurate scientific context is embarrassingly missing throughout the piece. For example, Consumer Reports effectively dupes your reporter into printing its rhetoric about mercury levels without any challenge whatsoever. Lombroso quotes the magazine as being perturbed after claiming certain FDA data on light tuna found levels of mercury that were twice what the average is. The FDA limit for mercury in fish is 1.0ppm (with a 10-fold safety factor built in, making the level of concern 10.0ppm.) The average mercury level for canned light tuna is 0.1ppm. The simple math shows Consumer Reports, and by ignorant proxy, your reporter expressing public alarm about mercury levels at 0.2 ppm. Keep in mind, this is despite the demonstrable fact that the FDAs action level of 1.0ppm was established to limit consumers methyl mercury exposure to levels 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.

I look forward to your review of and comment on our concerns.

Gavin Gibbons

Vice President, Communications

National Fisheries Institute

Cc: Rosalind Jackler

Deputy National News Editor

USA Today