Claims that the US Food & Drug Administration was unduly influenced by the US food industry when drawing up its guidelines on fish consumption and mercury have been refuted by the National Food Processors Association (NFPA).
The guidelines "provide sound, actionable advice to the public on safely consuming fish", according to the NFPA's executive vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Dr Rhona Applebaum, who added that the FDA had done "an exemplary job in the development, focus and wording" of the advisory.
Dr Applebaum was speaking at the meeting of the FDA's Food Advisory Committee which was held last week to discuss whether the advice about mercury and fish was adequate and correct.
"The NFPA strongly disagrees with any assertion that FDA's fish consumption advisory was shaped by political pressure from the food industry," Dr Applebaum stated. "The idea that industry can dictate the FDA's position on this or any other issue does a deep disservice to the FDA and its dedicated staff, who work every day to help ensure the safety of our nation's food supply. Further, this premise is simply false. There is every indication that the FDA made its decision on how to frame the fish consumption advisory to consumers on the basis of the best science available to them."
She continued: "Advice to consumers on fish consumption is a very complex issue that cannot and should not be addressed by looking at any one piece of information. We believe the FDA met the challenge of integrating information from a variety of sources on the numerous factors that must be considered in providing sound, actionable advice to the public on safely consuming fish, which has repeatedly been recognised as contributing to a healthful diet."
She concluded: "It is inconceivable that any public health agency - particularly the FDA - would not only risk its scientific credibility but also imperil consumer health by doing anything other than looking at this issue from an objective, scientific perspective. The NFPA does not always agree with the Agency's conclusions or decisions on all matters. However, we firmly believe that the FDA bases its decisions on what they believe the facts to be after careful and diligent efforts to identify, assess, consider and interpret relevant, scientifically valid information."
The NFPA is the voice of the US food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.