The Sushi Story - wednesday 2006-03-08 0247 last modified 2006-03-08 0300
Categories: Current Events
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Reuters and UPI have been carrying a wire story (based on an L.A. Times story?) about dangerous mercury levels in sushi. An intrepid consumer obtained tuna from six different sushi restaurants in L.A. and ran some tests to ascertain the levels of mercury in them. Then the story gets... well, fishy. Of course.

First, we're only told that the average level of mercury exceeds the FDA average. Which average - mean, median? What was the standard deviation? There are only six restaurants, it isn't a large data set and could probably be published in full. Statistics don't mean anything in such a vague form - maybe five samples had less than the FDA threshhold. Or four, since the article says "a couple" were "'unsafe to eat.'"

What does the FDA threshhold mean? How high above it do you have to go to start being scared of your food?

Most importantly, who was this intrepid consumer, and why should we believe his results? Why believe he didn't bring back each piece and marinate it in methyl mercury for a couple hours before running his tests? Why trust him?

Well, don't. Each story reports this test comes from, a cute piece of marketing that arrives in conjunction with the information that it's part of the "California-based Sea Turtle Restoration Project." Sea turtle restoration? What does that have to do with mercury in fish? It seems the STRP, or the Turtle Island Restoration Network, is part of the Earth Island Institute (link goes to an apparently right-wing site critical of similar 'left-wing' groups, again a matter of who to believe; but it fits my point, so deal), founded by the founder of the Sierra Club. If you know anything about the Sierra Club, you know what that means.

He regarded the Sierra Club as not radical enough and decided to start EII as yet another a more radical environmentalist group to promote the general agenda of obliterating every trace of humanity's effects on the environment.

My conclusion: the branch of EII is being used to disrupt commercial fishing; through this "news" story by reducing the profitability of sushi restaurants, but generally by making the public scared of fish. After all, tuna fishing is often cited as a major cause of death for dolphins. And really, if mercury in tuna is a serious problem, it's not like sushi restaurants are the only purveyors poisoning you - you should just avoid tuna and fish in general, because cooking that stuff certainly isn't going to help. Why stop at sushi restaurants? Because it's an agenda.

Sure, be informed about what you eat. But without more data, this isn't news. It's propaganda. Don't stop patronizing your favorite sushi establishment, not for this. Fish is good for you.


A month ago I re...

A month ago I read an article that said the FDA recently updated some of its numbers on mercury, and the levels found in certain types of tuna were higher than before.

Here's the article

Here's the data

I don't know what constitutes "safe" or "unsafe" levels though.

fugu on March 09, 2006 06:57 PM

As the last link...

As the last link indicates, the levels found in the California sushi are 10% of the level which the FDA would find truly notable; the numbers in the article are the average mercury ppm level found per fish species and have little direct bearing on safety. I don't know how they arrive at any of these safety numbers nor how they stack up in one-time vs. repeated exposures.

Note that the expert cited in your article is the same one in the recent sushi story. Whatever he's saying, I've stopped listening.

Ryan Lee on March 10, 2006 05:06 AM

Consumer Freedom

The people who published that further info on the sushi non-story? Front for the food, alcohol, and tobacco industries.

My fault. Yet it is kind of nice when two opposing factions battle out a war of information. It behooves each side to dig up as much factual content as possible when dealing with the other. As long as the spin and bias are as evident as they are now, they can be split from what facts are given.

By all means, y'all keep fighting now. The rest of us are actually gaining something: a public record on otherwise hidden special interests.

Ryan Lee on March 13, 2006 10:58 PM

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