Errors, Inaccuracy Mar NYT Sushi Story

Jan 23, 2008, 00:00 ET from National Fisheries Institute

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a poorly-sourced,
 sensational article in this morning's New York Times, reporter Marian
 Burros presents a distorted report on sushi and seafood that is at odds
 with widely accepted science. The story is unreliable and contradicts
 broadly-held medical advice that tuna and other kinds of fish are an
 essential part of a healthy diet. The Times story is alarmist, special
 interest-driven journalism and should be treated with extreme skepticism.
     NFI will be demanding an explanation from Times editors for how these
 basic breaches in the newspaper's own standards could have occurred and
 will also be requesting a formal correction on specific errors.
     Among the egregious errors and omissions found in Burros's story:
     -- There is little if any acknowledgment or explanation of the widely
 accepted benefits associated with eating seafood. Well researched
 science-based articles that deal with the mercury issue deserve to include
 a discussion of the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids. An article that
 presents a risk-only analysis ignores widely tested and reported health
 benefits that offset many of the concerns raised.
     -- The sourcing found throughout the report is almost completely
 one-sided. Aside from the Environmental Protection Agency and restaurants
 whose sushi was tested by the Times, the only sources consulted are experts
 with clear self-interests and or activist groups engaged in both lobbying
 and fundraising against coal fired power plants, a source of mercury.
 Examples include:
     -- Despite the availability of well regarded, independent, objective
 laboratories Burros chose to have her Sushi samples tested by Dr. Michael
 Gochfeld. As part of his own work Gochfeld treats patients for issues
 related to mercury. Because Gochfeld's research and practice stands to
 benefit from alarmist stories about mercury he should not be considered an
 objective clinician in this case.
     -- Kate Mahaffey from the EPA tells readers that a rise in blood
 mercury levels in this country "appears" to be related to Americans eating
 fish that are higher in mercury. This is pure speculation and is in fact
 refuted by the latest consumption data that shows lower mercury seafood
 like shrimp, salmon and tilapia are some of the most popular.
     -- Environmental Defense is a political activist group with scant
 expertise in the medical science of food consumption. Burros omits mention
 of their fundraising agenda, instead describing them disingenuously as
 "work[ing] improve human health." Yet, the "advice" they offer is at
 odds with what every major medical, health and government agency has
 publicly recommended.
     -- Throughout the article there is a sensational mischaracterization of
 the RfD (reference dose). Burros suggests that people who eat a certain
 number of pieces of sushi are at risk of exceeding EPA's reference dose
 level. It does not mention that those guidelines are based on consumption
 over one's entire lifetime and not merely a certain number of days or
 weeks. Nor does it mention the built in ten-fold safety factor.
     -- In mentioning the levels of mercury found in the samples tested
 Burros fails to explain that the FDA's "Action Level" is a calculated
 estimate that also includes a ten-fold safety factor.
     For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its
 members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable
 seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit:

SOURCE National Fisheries Institute