Tags: fish | mislabel | mercury

Mislabeled Fish Could Give You Mercury Poisoning: Study

By    |   Wednesday, 20 August 2014 05:27 PM

Mislabeled fish isn’t just a consumer rip-off that can hit you in the wallet. New research on false advertising of fish sold at retailers in 10 states finds that it can expose consumers to high levels of the harmful pollutant mercury.

Mislabeling may occur when cheaper species are substituted for more expensive ones, but also when fish of the same species are labeled as being from incorrect fisheries, noted the researchers, from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, in a study published in the Public Library of Science journal, PLOS One.

The study examined brands of Chilean sea bass that had been labeled as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and brands that had not been certified, purchased from retail counters across 10 different states, Medical News Today reports.

MSC-certified Chilean sea bass are advertised as being sourced from the Southern Ocean waters of South Georgia — far away from man-made pollution — and should be consistently low in mercury.  But when the researchers compared the MSC-certified and non-certified Chilean sea bass, they found no significant differences in the levels of mercury.

“What's happening is that the species are being substituted,” explained biologist Peter B. Marko. “The ones that are substituted for MSC-certified Chilean sea bass tend to have very low mercury, whereas those substituted for uncertified fish tend to have very high mercury. These substitutions skew the pool of fish used for MSC comparison purposes, making certified and uncertified fish appear to be much more different than they actually are.”

The researchers noted that the accumulation of mercury varies within a species’ geographic range according to environmental factors, so the location where fish are harvested is very important. By misrepresenting the origins of their fish, retailers are not only defrauding customers but also putting their health at risk, they said.

Although there are many health benefits to eating fish, most commercially harvested fish are contaminated with mercury — a neurotoxin that is especially damaging to the developing nervous system.

The Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant and young children not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish — which are known to have high concentrations of mercury — and to eat no more than 12 ounces per week of species of fish that have lower levels of mercury.

“We recommend that consumer advocates take a closer look at the variation in mercury contamination depending on the geographic source of the fishery stock when they consider future seafood consumption guidelines,” Marko said.

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A new study of mislabeled fish sold at retailers in 10 states finds that it can expose consumers to high levels of the harmful pollutant mercury. Mislabeling may occur when cheaper varieties are sold as more expensive ones.
fish, mislabel, mercury
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 05:27 PM
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