FDA has denied a petition seeking to require methylmercury labeling on seafood. (subscription to Food Chemical News is required)

  • Mercury exposure via seafood consumption has been a health concern for years, so much so that FDA has an entire section of its website dedicated to the topic. By way of background, airborne mercury, produced from various industrial activities, is deposited into the ocean, where it converts into methylmercury.  The methylmercury, in turn, accumulates in fish and shellfish. Consumer advocacy groups, like Earthjustice, have argued that methylmercury exposure has been linked to learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and impaired cognitive and nervous system functioning.  In July 2011, Earthjustice filed a Citizen Petition asking the FDA to post signs near market seafood counters and on seafood labels to warn consumers about mercury in fish.
  • On January 18, 2017, FDA denied the Citizen Petition and instead issued new advice to consumers concerning fish consumption and health. In denying the petitioner’s request, FDA noted that its consumer outreach efforts should achieve the Agency’s food safety goals as it relates to potential methylmercury exposure.
  • Consumer advocacy groups continue to express concern on this issue, but given FDA’s recent action, any future efforts to require methylmercury labeling of seafood will likely face an uphill battle.