Mike and Kristin, leafleting at the Lifelight Concert in Milbank, SD
write: I thought it went pretty well. South Dakota is farm country,
especially around Milbank. If you are not a farmer yourself you either
have a relative that is or a really close friend. I would guess there
were probably 400 to 500 people there.
Mike made the call to the people in charge to make sure we didn't
cause any trouble. We were very excited when all 3 people said "of
course" without any hesitation. We were able to hand the brochures out
to people in the lobby, and we handed out just about 1 entire box .
Just about everyone that passed took one, including high school and
junior high kids. There was some negativity, but I expected that. I gave
two cattlemen a brochure (not knowing they were cattlemen) and they
weren't too happy. I just smiled and was very kind and said we are just
trying to honor God's creation. Hopefully they think about it some more
and do research on the Internet and find a new career.
[The media widely reported a research report sponsored by respected
medical and scientific bodies that encouraged people to eat more
seafood. Those medical and scientific organizations later found out that
they had been duped. Here’s the story.]
October 17, 2007
Industry Money Fans Debate on Fish
By Marian Burros
MANY health advocates were surprised earlier this month when a
children’s health coalition that includes federal agencies and
professional medical associations contradicted government warnings about
mercury contamination and recommended that women of childbearing age eat
Since then several coalition members have renounced the findings,
some criticizing the coalition’s leadership for taking thousands of
dollars from the fishing industry to promote the recommendations. The
coalition’s leaders did not present the recommendations to its members
before releasing them.
The organization, the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
Coalition, announced on Oct. 4 that women of childbearing age should eat
at least 12 ounces of seafood each week, including tuna and mackerel,
which can have high levels of mercury.
Since 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental
Protection Agency have recommended that such women eat no more than 12
ounces of fish a week, including no more than 6 ounces of canned
albacore tuna, and avoid swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark
because they are high in mercury, which most scientists say is harmful
to fetuses and young children.
The coalition based its advice on a finding by the Maternal Nutrition
Group, made up of physicians, dietitians and nutritionists. It relied on
recent research, including a study in the British medical journal
Lancet, showing that the benefits for babies of omega-3 fatty acids and
other substances in fish outweighed the risks of mercury. Another study
showed that fears about mercury had kept some women from eating any
But in an 1,800-word response to its critics, the coalition
acknowledged that a member of the Maternal Nutrition Group, Dr. James
McGregor, a visiting professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the
University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, had gotten
the National Fisheries Institute to provide $1,000 honoraria to each of
the group’s 14 members, with an extra $500 each to the group’s four
executive committee members.
The National Fisheries Institute also gave the coalition $60,000 for
its education campaign. The coalition’s leadership said that the public
relations firm Burson-Marsteller “facilitated this group sharing its
findings” with the coalition and is working to promote the
Burson-Marsteller which represents the fisheries institute, had
worked for the U.S. Tuna Foundation before it joined with the institute.
Hampton Shaddock, a managing director of Burson-Marsteller, is the
vice chairman of the coalition, although he said he recused himself from
any discussion by the organization on seafood recommendations.
Both the recommendations and the connection to the fishing industry
angered some members of the coalition.
“We are appalled,” said Dr. Frank Greer, chairman of the nutrition
committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a member of the
coalition. He said his organization does not believe the new advice is
backed up by the preponderance of science.
“Plus it’s paid for by the National Fisheries Institute, which is a
real conflict of interest,” Dr. Greer said.
Others in the coalition, including the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, the federal Health Resources Services Administration as
well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the
March of Dimes, also disavowed the findings.
“Until we have a solid convincing argument we are not going to
change,” said Michele Kling, a spokeswoman for the March of Dimes.
Julie Zawisza, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration,
said the agency stood by its warnings about seafood high in mercury. “We
think we are pretty much aware of everything that is out there in terms
of scientific studies and data,” Ms. Zawisza said, “and we haven’t seen
any data that we believe would support a change in our current
Dr. Kathryn Mahaffey, a senior scientist with the E.P.A., said the
coalition’s recommendation “has created an artificial controversy.”
“I talk to a number of very well educated pregnant women and when
they hear these messages they find themselves confused,” Dr. Mahaffey
said. “It undermines what regulatory agencies have to say.”
“You can have omega-3’s without having much mercury,” she added, “but
you have to make really careful choices and try to follow our
Judy Meehan, executive director of the coalition, said there was
nothing wrong with the Burson-Marsteller connection nor with taking
money from organizations with a product to sell.
“We receive money for an educational message and we stand behind that
message,” Ms. Meehan said. “We saw an important health message that is a
priority and thought the latest science should be included.”
John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute said
there is no conflict of interest. “N.F.I. is proud to have been able to
support a continuing discussion of the importance of eating seafood as
part of healthy diet during pregnancy,” he said.
This is not the first time the seafood industry has given money to an
outside group to talk about the benefits of its products. For example,
the tuna foundation gave $45,000 last year to the University of
Maryland’s Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy to create
the Web site realmercuryfacts.org, which disputes government warnings
about mercury in seafood.