March 11, 2014Client Alert

FDA’s Failure to Respond to Petition Over Mercury Levels in Seafood Leads to Lawsuit by Consumer Advocacy Groups

The consumer advocacy groups, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project, sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday in the District of Columbia Federal Court over the levels of mercury in the seafood we eat.


In July 2011, both groups petitioned the FDA to require signs in supermarkets and labels on packaged seafood that give consumers information on the amounts of mercury in fish and other seafood. FDA was supposed to respond to the petitions within 180 days but failed to do so. Thus, this lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief requiring FDA to issue a final decision on the petitions by a court-ordered deadline.


The Complaint, filed by non-profit public interest law organization Earthjustice on behalf of the advocacy groups, focuses on improving the communication of seafood consumption advice to a “Target Group” consisting of “women of child-bearing age, pregnant or nursing women, and parents of young children.” The advocacy groups are concerned that FDA’s “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish,” from 2004 is not reaching the general public. Labels and point-of-purchase signs, they claim, would better help consumers to reduce their risk of mercury exposure.

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