Whole Foods, Safeway, and Wild Oats to Post Seafood Mercury Warnings

WASHINGTON -- Natural and organic retailer Whole Foods Market yesterday joined Safeway and Wild Oats as the first national supermarket chains to commit to posting signs giving consumers a government warning about mercury in certain kinds of seafood.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory in 2004 warning women of childbearing age and children to avoid swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark due to the high mercury content of these fish. The FDA also advised them to limit albacore tuna and tuna steaks to no more than six ounces per week. The agency has determined that mercury contamination in these fish is high enough to threaten fetal development and children's health. It's estimated that hundreds of thousands of women already have enough mercury in their systems to cause harm to a developing fetus.

"Many people are still unaware of the danger lurking behind the seafood counter," explained Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. "That could change if the major supermarket chains would simply post the FDA's warning."

Over the past year, Oceana and its members contacted major U.S. supermarket chains asking them to voluntarily post the signs. Savitz congratulated the three supermarket chains that made Oceana's "Green List" for committing to post signs in stores containing the FDA's advisory on which seafood contains mercury: Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and Safeway -- including its Vons, Dominick's, and Tom Thumb banners.

Oceana's "Red List" of supermarkets -- those chains not posting the FDA advisory in their stores -- includes A&P, Ahold, Albertsons, Delhaize, Costco, Giant Eagle, IGA, Ingles, Kroger, Price Chopper, Publix, Shop Rite, Trader Joe's, U.S. Supermarkets General Holding Corp., Wal-Mart, Wegmans, and Winn-Dixie.

Also yesterday, in cities across the country, conservation and health advocacy groups held rallies outside local supermarkets as part of a new public education campaign warning customers of mercury contamination in seafood.

Oceana is an environmental advocacy group that campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Its teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers, and advocates aim to drive specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals, and other sea life. More than 300,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have joined Oceana to date, according to the group.
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