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Mercury labelling of fish products is needed now, says NGOs

By staff reporter , 13-Feb-2009

A coalition of different environmental organisations, the Zero Mercury Working Group, claims that there are risks associated with eating fish due to its mercury content, and consumers need to be made aware of these through fish and seafood product labelling.

The group maintains that the proposed European Union regulation for labelling foodstuffs, currently being considered in the European parliament, should include advice for vulnerable groups about the mercury content of fish and seafood.

As part of its campaign to call attention to the global human health hazards caused by mercury in fish, the group has released a report this week that it claims demands an effective response from governments and the United Nations.

The publication cites statistics from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the consumption of fish is the major source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans.

Michael Bender, report co-author, said that the study indicates that fish tested in different locations around the world show that internationally accepted exposure levels for methylmercury are exceeded, often by wide margins, in each country and area covered.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)’s Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, who is the zero mercury project coordinator, insists that the labelling of certain fish products should be instituted without delay.

And she maintains that all governments should consider the report’s findings and agree on launching an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to start work immediately on a global mercury treaty, when they meet at the UN convention on mercury in Nairobi next week.

To protect consumers against the risks of mercury through consumption, the European Commission stated in April last year that member states should be provided with all the relevant information to be able to issue consumer advice and that consumers are entitled to receive concrete information where possible.

Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding are currently advised by global food safety regulators to avoid eating certain fish that is deemed to be high in mercury such as swordfish, shark, marlin and pike.