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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Fisheries Institute here blasted The New York Times' and it food reporter Marian Burros for presenting what the trade group called "a poorly-sourced, sensational" and "distorted report" on sushi and seafood.
On Wednesday, The New York Times ran a story written by Burros claiming that recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Also, while the story reported on tests conducted only on sushi bought in New York story, it added that "experts believe similar results would be observed elsewhere." One expert quoted was Tim Fitzgerald, a marine scientist for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group.
Contending that the story was unreliable and contradicts broadly-held medical advice that tuna and other kinds of fish are an essential part of a healthy diet, NFI labeled the Times' piece "alarmist, special-interest-driven journalism [that] should be treated with extreme skepticism."
NFI said it is demanding an explanation from the newspaper's editors for how what the trade group called basic breaches in the newspaper's own standards could have occurred; and it will also request a correction of what it said were specific errors.
NFI said problems with the Burros story include:
- There is little if any acknowledgment or explanation of the widely accepted benefits associated with eating seafood, such as the the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids.
- 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.
- Despite the availability of independent, objective laboratories, Burros had her sushi samples tested by Dr. Michael Gochfeld, who treats patients for issues related to mercury, and whose practice would stand to benefit from negative stories about mercury.
- A statement in the story made by Kate Mahaffey from the EPA claiming that a rise in blood mercury levels in this country "appears" to be related to Americans eating fish that are higher in mercury is speculation, and is refuted by the latest consumption data that shows lower-mercury seafood like shrimp, salmon, and tilapia are some of the most popular.