WASHINGTON: The Tuna Foundation and agency Ruder Finn are trying to calm the fears about the mercury levels in canned seafood.
A three-part series last month in The Chicago Tribune prompted a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official to tell the paper on December 31 that the agency would investigate whether tuna contains high levels of mercury.
Nancy Glick, director of media relations at Ruder Finn, noted that the Tuna Foundation is working "aggressively" to respond to public concerns.
The trade group issued two statements in response to the series and is also working with public officials "who feel very strongly that we have to stop scaring the public," Glick said.
John Block, a former secretary of agriculture, and Dr. Louis Sullivan, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, were among the authors of letters to the editor.
"All the data supports over and over again and this is a non-issue," Glick said, adding that a single can of tuna has a tiny amount of mercury. "It's a series of articles where a reporter has used a lot of information from environmental activist groups."
The Turtle Island Restoration Network is one of the groups using ads, media relations, and its gotmercury.org website to push the FDA to require regular testing of seafood.
The group, which could not be reached by presstime, has also called on supermarkets like Safeway to post warnings on seafood cans.
Ruder Finn is also working with the University of Maryland (UM) to promote realmercuryfacts.org, which responds to consumer confusion about mercury.
A UM survey found that almost a third of consumers are concerned about mercury in seafood, and even though the warning only applies to pregnant women and young children, people across the board are eating less fish.
"This is having a bad impact on the public," Glick said about the mercury scare. "If said in the right tone, it sounds very scary."