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Costco Wholesale Corp. is committing to warning its customers about mercury contamination in fish by posting Food and Drug Administration mercury advice on signs at seafood counters in all of its stores.
The move, prompted by requests from watch group Oceana and Costco members, follows similar action by other major grocery chains nationwide. "With Costco's customer-oriented decision, more than one in three major grocery stores is now posting the government advice about mercury in fish," said Jackie Savitz, senior campaign director for Oceana. "Signs help shoppers in states like Washington, Oregon, and Nevada to make informed choices about what they buy and feed their families. But in other states, shoppers are unlikely to learn about the healthiest fish unless companies like Wal-Mart, A&P, and Publix get on board.”
According to Oceana, 36 percent of major grocery stores nationwide are posting the FDA advice and Washington state now ranks first in the nation for warning shoppers about mercury, with 95 percent of grocery stores posting the FDA signs. Oregon and Nevada follow close behind, while mercury warning signs are almost nonexistent in stores in other states, such as Florida and Oklahoma. Most of the remaining major grocery stores in Washington, Oregon, and Nevada that continue to resist posting the advice are Wal-Mart stores, said the group.
Mercury is a known neurotoxin that can harm normal brain development in children and may harm adult cardiopulmonary health. Avoiding fish with higher levels of mercury in favor of low mercury fish is a simple way to maximize the health benefits of seafood, while minimizing the risks of consuming mercury, according to Oceana. Many types of fish -- including wild salmon, trout, and sardines -- are low in mercury and contain the omega-3 fatty acids needed for optimal heart health.
In 2005 Oceana launched a campaign to urge grocery companies to post the EPA and FDA advice at their seafood counters. The following year an Oceana analysis determined that 12 percent of major grocery stores (nearly 3,000 stores) were posting the advice. But according to the organization's latest analysis, released yesterday, that figure has more than doubled, with about 36 percent (6,400 stores) of the major grocery stores now posting this information at seafood counters.
"Posting a sign that tells consumers which fish they should avoid would let them know that other fish are OK to eat, and allay any fears they may have," noted Simon Mahan, campaign manager for Oceana and lead author of the report. "In fact, some grocery stores that posted the FDA advice had no negative effect on their seafood sales, and one company even reported that seafood sales increased after posting the signs."