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If You're Not Fond of Mercury, Think Twice Before Eating Shark and Swordfish

Posted by: Heather Green on August 21, 2007

John Carey has a great story about a regulatory loophole in the system created by the FDA to check for mercury in imported swordfish and shark. (Since sharks and swordfish live fairly long lives, they tend to store up the stuff.) Because of the loophole, critics think that over half of the imported swordfish and shark exceed the mercury level limit set by the FDA.

So this is nutty but why is it happening? "All an importer has to do is show that five samples of fish are under the 1ppm level. The importer gets to pick the lab to do that analysis, and it is also allowed to pick the actual fish for testing. 'The gambit by the people who ship fish here is that they take the shipments with real small fish and do their analysis,' explains one FDA scientist. 'The younger and smaller the fish, the less mercury it contains.' Since the mercury levels in those fish are under 1ppm, 'they get off automatic detention,' he says. From then on, their shipments sail through without inspection or testing. 'Practically speaking, there is no surveillance anymore,' says the scientist."



BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.

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