Food and Drug Administration Risk Assessment of Aquatic Methyl Mercury Limits

 

The Food and Drug Administration has completed a risk assessment monitoring heavy metals in the catches of inshore and offshore fishing boats on the basis of information provided by the Fisheries Department of the Council of Agriculture.

Following the completion of this risk assessment, the Food and Drug Administration proposes revisions to the methyl mercury limits for whales, sharks, tuna, and fish oil. The Food and Drug Administration has completed a draft revision of the methyl mercury limits and the revision is currently under consideration by the food safety and nutrition advisory council, following amendment procedures.

Today the Japanese media reported that China’s current “aquatic animal health standards" focus on swordfish and other large migratory fish and have set a limit of 2 ppm methyl mercury. The Food and Drug Department stressed that these regulations are too loose, and that standards are set in consideration of food prices for consumers, consumers’ intake level of the food, and consumer health risk level based on scientific assessment. In 1997, the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare set the limits of methyl mercury in fish under 1 ppm or less. Upon release of this limit, many companies involved in the domestic fishing industry, as well as government agencies and academic bodies objected to this limit, noting that some species of fish may naturally have a methyl mercury content higher than 1 ppm. However, in the interest of public health, the Food and Drug Administration continues to protect aquatic products against high methyl mercury content and began to assess and development education and advocacy information as well as conduct public information sessions and distribute information in websites, magazines, and other publications in order to educate the public about the risks of exposure to methyl mercury.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO) also upholds an international standard for methyl mercury limits for aquatic animals for human consumption according to the Codex Alimentarius guidelines, and the European Union, New Zealand, and Australia have also set total methyl mercury limits at 1 ppm or less. In contrast, standards adopted in Hong Kong apply to total mercury content in a food product, not specifically only aquatic product. This management principle is more in line with international regulations.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration, in conjunction with Tainan City Government health officers conducted a series of food production factory site inspections. Melthymercury and cadmium were not detected in any swordfish batches, and lead was detected at a level of 0.03 ppm, in line with the limit for aquatic animal health standards.

Fish products are rich in nutrients, including easily digestible and absorbable protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and are suitable for consumption by people of all ages. However, due to environmental contamination of the ocean, almost all fish products may contain trace amounts of heavy metals, so it is best that all aquatic products be consumed in moderation as part of a health-promoting balanced diet.

Information regarding aquatic animals and heavy metals can be found on the Food and Drug Administration’s website at http://consumer.fda.gov.tw.