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Benefits of eating seafood outweigh risks

Though some species of fish around the world's are likely to be contaminated with mercury, PCBs and other toxins, the benefits of eating seafood continue to outweigh the risks, a panel of scientists recently said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The best science coming out over the last two years has overwhelmingly been in favor of the benefits of seafood consumption," said Michael T. Morrissey, director of Oregon State University's Seafood Laboratory in Astoria, Ore., and moderator of the panel.

Phillip Spiller, director of the Office of Seafood for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said that the FDA is going through a risk/benefit analysis to establish effective guidelines for fish consumption. Historically, he said, the agency has looked almost exclusively at safety issues without taking benefits into consideration.

"We must formulate a clear message for the consumer," he said.

And that is where things get complicated, pointed out Morrissey, who also is a professor in OSU's Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station. More research is necessary to determine exactly what the risks and benefits of eating seafood may be.

During the AAAS panel, for example, Phil Davidson from the University of Rochester Medical School, presented results of a unique 10-year study of more than 700 children living in the Seychelles Islands. The children's mothers averaged 12 meals of fish a week about 10 times the average fish consumption of individuals in the United States and those fish contained high levels of methylmercury.

Yet cognitive tests on the children, taken multiple times over the years, found no cognitive defects or other maladies normally attributed to mercury absorption.

"Those results are fascinating," Morrissey said in an interview after the panel discussion. "Is there something beneficial in consuming the fish that negates any adverse effects of the mercury? T
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Contact: Michael Morrissey
michael.morrissey@oregonstate.edu
503-325-4531
Oregon State University
23-Feb-2006


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