Stashing sardines? Oh-oh. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

ISSUE 1579 Tuesday 21 September 1999

THE safety of oily fish, one of the "miracle health foods" of the Nineties, was in dispute yesterday after studies revealed that they can contain higher than expected levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

Levels of dioxins and PCBs - two pollutants linked with cancer and other illnesses - were found to be so high that eating two or more portions a week could increase levels to over the maximum recommended intake. But experts disagreed yesterday over the significance of the findings. Major studies in recent years have provided overwhelming evidence that oily fish offers powerful protection against heart disease.

The World Health Organisation, which drew up the maximum intake figures, said its calculation methods were not sufficiently accurate to make warnings about slightly exceeded doses. The figures were disclosed last month in an official Government report produced jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health.

The study showed that many brands of fish fingers, sold widely in shops and supermarkets, and a range of fresh fish including cod, haddock, plaice and whiting, contained the pollutants. But most was found in oily varieties including herring, mackerel, pilchards and sardines.

But no official health warning was issued with the report, the first comprehensive survey of dioxins in marine fish carried out by MAFF for the Government's Joint Food Safety and Standards Group. Instead, ministers relied on the conclusions of their independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT), which concluded that adults should continue to follow Government advice to eat at least one portion of oily fish a week to help prevent heart disease "as it is likely to provide health benefits for most adults without exceeding safety guidelines for dietary exposure to dioxins and PCBs".

The Government was criticised yesterday for failing to publicise the data. Philip Lightowlers, of Environmental Data Services, spotted the risk and revealed it in the ENDS Report, a respected environmental newsletter. Mr Lightowlers used the figures to calculate that the average British consumer - who eats slightly less than one portion of oily fish a week - ingests 2.6 picograms of dioxin (or toxic equivalent) per kilogram of their bodyweight per day.

The WHO recommends no more than four pg while Britain has stuck to the older WHO figure of 10 pg. But Mr Lightowlers showed that children and adults who eat more than one portion would ingest 5.6 pg. He said: "MAFF chose not to publicise the study's findings. Maybe spin doctors did not like what they saw.

"The figures show that two or three portions per week would be sufficient to breach WHO limits. The unspoken conclusion of the study is that it would be unwise to eat oily fish any more frequently and children should be even more careful to limit their fish consumption."

The British Nutrition Foundation, which recommends eating two to three portions of oily fish each week, said it was "worried" by the report.

A spokesman said: "If the sort of advice we are giving about oily fish is compromised by the presence of high levels of toxins, then I would not feel comfortable about telling the public they have to increase their levels."

The Ministry of Agriculture denied yesterday that fish posed a health risk to the public. It said: "No press release was put out at the time because the levels reported were as expected."

-- Old Git (, September 21, 1999


That's it Git,

I'm scratching them right off the top of my 'Will Mudwrestle For:' list!

{Anchovies are altogether another matter}

-- flora (***@__._), September 21, 1999.

Don't forget all the saltine crackers for those sardines.

-- Forrest Covington (, September 21, 1999.

I always thought I was lucky to like sardines and kippers! Plenty of them always on the grocery shelf even during a snow storm alert.

-- Carol (, September 21, 1999.

Kind of a good news, bad news. Now I get the kippers and sardines while the grandkids get the canned corned beef!

-- Carlos (, September 22, 1999.

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