Once again, the news media got it completely, utterly wrong concerning salmon and mercury. What's worse, this time the misinformation came from a widely read physician-columnist who clearly hadn't done his research.
Peter Gott, M.D. writes a syndicated health column called “Ask Dr. Gott”. In a recent column, titled "All-fish diet not so healthy," he answered an inquiry from a woman who was worried about her daughter's diet, which includes, as she described it, “…black coffee for breakfast, a salad for lunch and lots of salmon for dinner.”
Dr. Gott's chief concern was the unbalanced nature of the daughter's diet, but he managed to impart serious misinformation about salmon in the course of delivering his otherwise reasonable response.
Here's what Dr. Gott said that left us tearing our hair out: "Dear Reader: Recent studies have again confirmed that certain fish—notably swordfish and wild salmon—can have high mercury levels and therefore should be consumed sparingly.”
In fact, lab tests conducted by the U.S. government (FDA and EPA) and various academic and independent organizations confirm that wild salmon is consistently low in mercury.
Dr. Gott's egregious error would be bad enough if all it did was harm the livelihoods of struggling fishermen, but salmon is widely accepted as one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which possess potent heart-protective, anti-cancer, obesity-fighting properties, among other health benefits.
Physician, educate thyself… especially if your audience encompasses millions of readers who expect you to possess special expertise!
A frustrating pattern of phony salmon stories
We are dismayed by the frequency with which media outlets disseminate information that can undermine the health and well being of their consumers, and it is doubly dismaying to encounter errors coming from such a widely read physician.
Our readers may recall that we've had to debunk three earlier cases of media misinformation:
We hope that the highly positive safety profile of wild salmon will eventually sink in so widely that even deadline-driven writers, editors, and producers will recognize reckless misinformation, even when it's offered up by under-informed “experts.”