Oceana Asks Supermarkets to Inform About the Risks of Consuming Fish with a High Mercury Content

Distribution chains of other countries already display posters with consumption recommendations of different species

Press Release Date: July 18, 2011

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: webadmin@oceana.org | tel.: 202.000.0000

Oceana has got in touch with the main supermarket and hypermarket chains in Spain to ask them to   display posters advising the most vulnerable consumers about the health risks caused by the presence of mercury in fish and recommendations about its consumption. The International Marine Conservation Organization bases its request on the warnings by the Spanish Agency of Food Safety and Nutrition [Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición (AESAN)] and on a common practice in other countries, where it is normal to show these warnings.

In their letter, Oceana expresses its worry about the fact that many families are still not aware that species such as swordfish o sharks, such as the shortfin mako shark or the blue shark, can accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury since they are situated at the top of the food chain. The high content of this metal, which has neurotoxic effects, can be checked in a report from the Spanish Oceanography Institute [Instituto Español de Oceanografía] to which Oceana had access after a few years of litigation.  

In an official note, AESAN recommends women of a fertile age, pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as children younger than 3 years old, to avoid the consumption of species like swordfish or sharks, and for children younger than 12 years old to limit their consumption to 50 grams a week.

“Oceana asks distribution chains to inform their clients about the risks of consuming fish that accumulates high quantities of mercury. Far from causing alarm, we are making a call for traders to prove that they are worried about the health of the consumers by displaying posters in a visible place with the recommended precaution measures of the Ministry of Health”, explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of  Oceana Europe. “This exercise of responsibility should be spread throughout the European Union, since these species tend to be migratory”.

In the United States, for some time, distributors such as Safeway, Costco, Kroger and Whole Foods have been displaying posters with similar recommendations issued by the Food and Drug Administration and whose objective is to help the consumer to make informed decisions.

The main source of mercury emissions to the sea are chlorine factories who continue to use mercury cells. This technology, for which alternatives exist, should have stopped being used in 2007 in accordance with the IPPC Directive relating to the Integrated Prevention and Control of Contamination. Nevertheless, in Spain there are still factories that use it today.

Mercury: Overview