Consumer protection and environmental advocacy groups filed al lawsuit Monday, accusing the Food and Drug Administration of failing to act in response to calls for more public information about mercury levels in seafood.
The legal action follows a petition filed by the group Earthjustice three years ago, urging the FDA to require signs at supermarket seafood counters to telling shoppers about the amounts of mercury in fish.
The petition, filed on behalf of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project, also calls for labels on packaged seafood.
The groups say FDA officials had, under the agency’s own rules, 180 days to respond to the petition but ignored the deadline in violation of federal law.
“FDA’s failure to respond to our petition is frustrating and disappointing,” said Earthjustice attorney Summer Kupau-Odo. “Citizens expect that the public health agency charged with ensuring that food is safe and properly labeled will respond to their valid food safety concerns in a timely manner, especially when the health of some of the most vulnerable members of our community—infants and children—is at risk.”
Mercury in seafood, linked to industrial deposits into the ocean, has been linked to health problems in fetuses and small children, including lowered IQ, learning disabilities and nervous system problems.
“The public—and especially at-risk groups such as pregnant women and heavy fish eaters—urgently need updated information,” said Michael T. Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, a project of the Tides Center.