San Diego, CA; June 21, 2004 — Responding to the filing of a lawsuit by California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer under The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65, the U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) today stated that the industry strongly disagrees with the Attorney General and is prepared to demonstrate in court that canned tuna products are safe and that the industry is in full compliance with Proposition 65 provisions.
\”We believe that Californians have nothing to gain and much to lose by the Attorney General\’s action. Tuna is a safe and healthy food,\” said David Burney, USTF Executive Director. \”This suit is not grounded in science and will needlessly scare consumers away from affordable foods that are good for them. As health officials have consistently emphasized, fish and shellfish are an important part of a balanced diet.\”
The industry\’s perspective is consistent with the advice issued in March 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that states \”fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet and contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.\” The advisory recommends that pregnant and nursing women can safely eat up to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish and shellfish, including canned light tuna, that are low in mercury and up to 6 ounces of white tuna (albacore) a week. In issuing this advice, these agencies took special care to be clear that consumption guidance is only needed for these select audiences, and not for the general population, and that fish such as tuna should remain as an essential part of a healthy diet.
In challenging the Attorney General\’s decision, USTF also pointed to a major study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which analyzed mercury levels in the blood of a random sample of American women and children. Reported in March 2001, the study found that every one of the women and children studied — 100 percent — had amounts that were significantly below what scientists call the \”no observed adverse effect level,\” or the level linked to adverse health effects.
According to industry representatives, canned tuna is in full compliance with Proposition 65 provisions. In fact, a key distinction in this case will be that Proposition 65 does not apply to those substances, which are derived from natural sources, such as mercury in fish. In the case of canned tuna and most other types of ocean fish and seafood, the minute amounts of mercury come from underwater volcanic activity. Moreover, scientific studies confirm that the amount of mercury in canned tuna has not increased in the last 25 years.
The tuna industry intends to challenge the basis for the Attorney General’s action, since the listing of chemicals under Proposition 65 should parallel the decisions of \”authoritative\” scientific organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
\”The Attorney General\’s suit puts at risk a significant educational campaign that has been in development for some time,\” said Burney. This state-wide campaign was developed in partnership with Public Media Center (PMC), with the goal of providing helpful advice for pregnant and nursing mothers about a range of topics, including how to safely include a variety of fish, including canned tuna, into their diets. \”While discussions are ongoing, this important initiative will clearly be delayed,\” Burney added.