Marion Nestle is taking some heat on one of her blog posts from a group that calls itself the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).1 It centers around a story reported in the NYTs last week that stated, "Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the EPA."
The CCF claims that the tuna sushi tested is "nothing but safe, wholesome fish."
Marion said, "the tuna industry is fighting back through its public relations agency, the Center for Consumer Freedom." And that, "every word CCF says is paid for."
The CCF then phoned her and stated, "We intend to take legal action," claiming that her statements above are false.
So, is tuna safe? Does the Center for Consumer Freedom work without compensation? See what you think:
Below is Marion's blog post that the CCF intends to take legal action against:
"So yesterday’s New York Times report on methylmercury in sushi tuna–a shocker because the most expensive tuna has the most of this toxin (of course it does; it’s bigger and accumulates more)–is now experiencing the expected backlash. Sushi eaters don’t seem to care much, and the tuna industry is fighting back through its public relations agency, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). What is a tuna lover to do? If you aren’t pregnant, about to become pregnant, or a very young child (if you are, you should avoid big predatory fish like king mackeral, swordfish, tilefish, shark, and albacore tuna) the FDA and EPA say up to 6 ounces a week is OK. That leaves plenty of room for spending a fortune on sushi.
Here’s what Newsweek has to say about the CCF complaints. It’s great to see a news magazine blow the whistle on that group. Every word CCF says is paid for, and some tuna association pays it to say that methylmercury is not a problem."
Below is the letter the CCF sent in response to that blog post:
"Dear Dr. Nestle,
In a blog posting on January 24, you wrote that “the tuna industry is fighting back through its public relations agency, the Center for Consumer Freedom.” You also wrote that “Every word CCF says is paid for, and some tuna association pays it to say that methylmercury is not a problem.” (source: http://whattoeatbook.com/2008/01/24/methylmercury-in-big-expensive-tuna/ )
These statements are false, and they seem calculated to do harm to our reputation.
You are free to speculate about the sources of support that our public-education efforts receive. You are not free, however, to assert things that are not true in an attempt to discredit our work. The above examples have clearly crossed the line into libel territory, and could lead to legal action.
If you have documentation that you believe substantiates your claim, I would be very interested to see it. But I am quite certain that you do not. I advise you to either post a correction or withdraw your January 24 piece entirely.
Director of Research
Center for Consumer Freedom
cc: Richard Berman, Executive Director"