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US food group comments on study on prenatal exposure to mercury from fish

Friday, May 16, 2003

Responding to the publication in the journal Lancet of a study investigating a possible link between prenatal mercury exposure from ocean fish and impaired neurodevelopment in children, Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer of the US food group, the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following comments:

"This study provides important new scientific information on childhood neurodevelopmental effects of fish consumption during pregnancy, specifically the absence of an association between effects on childhood development and prenatal mercury exposure from mothers consuming a variety of ocean fish The findings of this study have been eagerly awaited by the scientific and public health community.

"As explained in an accompanying commentary, the study finds that 'existing evidence suggests that methyl mercury exposure from fish consumption during pregnancy, of the level seen in most parts of the world, does not have measurable cognitive or behavioral effects in later childhood.' This is important information for today's consumers, because the study's design, in total, is highly relevant to the U.S. population's consumption patterns and dietary exposure.

"The conclusion drawn that 'There is no reason for pregnant women to reduce fish consumption below current levels' should certainly reassure consumers, particularly pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

"The findings from this study will be of great assistance to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as they continue to review their advice to consumers on mercury and fish consumption. As a science-based public health agency, data of this caliber will be extremely useful at FDA in giving further guidance to consumers."

The child development study -- titled "Prenatal methylmercury exposure from ocean fish consumption in the Seychelles" -- was conducted by a research team from the University of Rochester, and published in Lancet on May 16, 2003.

NFPA is the voice of the $500 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, food security, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.

Source: National Food Processors Association: http://www.nfpa-food.org/

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