FDA and California - Oceana USA
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August 26, 2005

FDA and California

BY: Dawn

California has been at the forefront for warning its citizens about mercury and seafood. As the result of a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General Bill Lockyer under Proposition 65 (the state’s right to know law), grocery stores have been posting warning signs at the seafood counter with the FDA’s advice on which fish to avoid if you’re a woman of child-bearing age (like myself) or a child, something we’d like to see spread to stores across the country.

Last summer, Lockyer filed another lawsuit against major canned tuna companies for failing to warn consumers about exposure to mercury in their products. Albacore tuna is on the list of fish the FDA advises women of child-bearing and children to reduce their consumption of because of high levels of mercury. And even chunk light, if eaten too frequently, could cause problems because of mercury levels.

At the end of last week, however, the FDA took issue with the state, and instead of encouraging the work the state has been doing better educate its citizens about the FDA’s consumption advisories, the FDA is now working to prevent the state of California from using the state’s right to know law. And in doing so, is siding with the tuna companies in the lawsuit.

“California should not interfere with FDA’s carefully considered approach of advising consumers of both the benefits and possible risks of eating seafood,” FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said in the letter. Under federal law, he said, the FDA “has been given broad authority to regulate the labels of food products,” and a state has no authority to take a stricter approach.

FDA’s approach (issuing advisories) is all well and good, if people actually know about the advisory, and unfortunately many people do not. California is taking the FDA’s advisory and bringing it to consumers, something Oceana is trying to do throughout the country. Given the FDA’s responsibility to protect Americans and its support of an advisory, the question remains, why has the FDA done such a poor job of educating the public and making the advisory known? And why are they backing the tuna companies, instead of protecting the public?

Help us find out! Take action and contact the FDA today.