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SAN FRANCISCO -- California's major tuna canners won a legal victory Friday after a California state judge ruled that mercury warnings were not merited for canned tuna.
StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee brands, each a member of the United States Tuna Foundation, fought and a won a battle with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer who attempted to place mercury warnings on canned tuna through California's Proposition 65.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Robert Dondero sided with tuna canners after hearing nearly two months of testimony on naturally occurring mercury in seafood. The canners reconfirmed for the court and public that their product is healthy and safe.
"Consumers are really the winners in this case," said Forrest Hainline of Goodwin Procter, the attorney for the tuna canners. "The judge has made a commonsense ruling based on nutrition and science. It's easy to see that canned tuna has always been an extremely healthy and important food source despite extremists' attempts to raise irrelevant and misleading arguments."
Judge Dondero reasoned that increased warnings against seafood would cause more harm than good by needlessly scaring people away from canned tuna. The chemical threshold proposed by the state for mercury in seafood was so low that every type of seafood sold commercially would need to display a warning.
According to the foundation, there is a growing body of evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids in seafood like canned tuna are associated with good heart health, optimal brain function and cognition, improved eye and skin health, and protection against certain cancers, according to scientific studies.
A study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, confirmed that the health benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh any risk due to trace amounts of mercury in fish. Published in the November 2005 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study concludes that for women of childbearing age, cognitive benefits can be achieved with virtually no negative impact on the developing child if women of childbearing age eat two servings a week of fish that are low in mercury. The Harvard researchers further reveal that if Americans reduce their fish consumption out of confusion about mercury, there will be serious public health consequences, notably higher death rates from heart disease and stroke.
"Instead of finding ways to discourage people from eating seafood, we should be busy finding ways to help everyone eat better," said David Burney, executive director of the U.S. Tuna Foundation. "Obesity is such a big problem in our culture, and canned tuna has been shown to be healthy and now, according to the strictest standard in the world, confirmed to be safe. We really should be encouraging seafood consumption as much as possible."
"We really believe this is a win for all consumers," Burney said. "Canned tuna is so healthy and affordable that everyone can easily gain its benefits as part of a healthy diet. We're really pleased that the judge has rejected the claims of extremists, and acted in common sense on behalf of Californians."