FDA Announces Foods Advisory Committee to Meet on Methyl Mercury in Seafood

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March 1, 2002

FDA ANNOUNCES FOODS ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO MEET ON METHYL MERCURY IN SEAFOOD

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it will soon schedule a meeting of its Foods Advisory Committee to review issues surrounding methyl mercury in commercial seafood. This review will include a re-examination of FDA’s most recent Consumer Advisory, issued in January 2001 and revised in March 2001, for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age who may become pregnant.

The advisory recommended that these women should avoid eating the four fish species with the highest levels of methyl mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish. It concluded that these women could safely eat 12 ounces per week of a variety of other fish, with the emphasis on choosing a variety of different species.

At that time, FDA set forth its rationale for this decision in a formal, publicly available document, “Rationale for Issuance of Revised Advisory on Methyl Mercury and Fish Consumption.” This document is available on FDA’s web site at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~acrobat/hgadv4.pdf.

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group calls into question the basis for FDA’s Consumer Advisory and the way in which FDA reached its conclusions on methyl mercury in seafood for this group of women.

FDA stands behind the process that led to its current Consumer Advisory on this subject, as well as the science that supports that advisory. In reaching its conclusions about methyl mercury in fish, FDA met with a broad range of interested parties, including consumer groups, health professionals, industry, and state public health officials.

Nevertheless, as a science-based agency committed to openness and transparency in its processes, FDA is convening its Foods Advisory Committee to meet in an open, public forum to discuss this important public health issue.

FDA expects to hold the meeting on methyl mercury in seafood later this spring. Details concerning the time and place of the meeting will be published in the Federal Register.

T02-14 Media Inquiries: 301-436-2335

Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

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