I read this interesting U.S. consumer report released in January 2011: “Younger women and children should limit the amount of tuna they eat and pregnant women should not eat tuna at all, because of mercury levels found in the canned and packaged fish”. The consumer report is a non-profit publication of the Consumers Union of the U.S.A.
The report observed that white tuna (albacore) contains far more mercury than light tuna and canned tuna is the most common source of mercury in our diet. It cautiously advised women of childbearing age, pregnant mothers and children to avoid canned and package tuna or go for sea food that contains low mercury but also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids e.g. shrimp, crab and cod.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines currently in operation in the United States advises young children and women of childbearing age to eat up to 12 ounces a week of light tuna or other lower-mercury containing seafood of up to 6 ounces per week of white tuna. This recently released consumer report, which is in conflict with the FDA and EPA, believes that the guidelines presently in operation means too much mercury for pregnant mothers thus predisposing their fetuses and youngsters (who are still developing their nervous systems) to the risks of methyl mercury’s neurotoxicity which includes birth defects of the nervous system.
In response to this report, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) criticized the consumer report which further limited pregnant mothers as well as growing children from eating tuna. The NFI mentioned a peer-reviewed science which shows that pregnant mothers who limit or avoid seafood may actually be introducing risks from omega-3 deficiency which has adverse consequences on their growing fetuses as well.
In situations like this, where there are uncertainties, public health physicians always suggests the need to apply precautionary principle to be able to play it safe.
In comparison to Nigeria and other low-income economies, reports like this always makes me feel sad. There is no doubt that most of these low-income countries equally have similar agencies entrusted with the task of guiding their governments as well as educating their consumers on environmental and health issues. It is unfortunate to say that these agencies are either ignorant of their responsibilities or there is lack of government commitment towards financing them to effectively discharge their duties for the good of its citizens. Furthermore, because of the level of poverty and poor literacy level in these low income countries where people live in less than a dollar a day, people hardly afford three square meals in a day not talk of selecting which meal is polluted or contaminated with carcinogens and which one is not; a pathetic situation.
I hope those at the helm of affairs of these low-income countries would learn from the high-income ones where the health of its populace takes precedence and not their pockets.
Further readings: Town sees mercury spikes
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