This Restaurateur Doesn't Skirt Mercury Issue

by , Oct 19, 2006, 5:00 AM
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Restaurants traditionally tout preparation methods or flavor profiles to market seafood dishes.

Beginning Nov. 15, customers at Bon Appetit Management Co.'s 400 U.S. food service locations will be able to order seafood based on how much mercury it contains.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based food service management company will post signs in cafes directing customers to GotMercury.org, a Web site that calculates the amount of mercury found in seafood. Customers enter their weight and the type and amount of fish they plan to eat; the GotMercury calculator reveals how much mercury they will ingest.

The Web site also includes information on mercury contamination in seafood, and includes a link to a Spanish-language GotMercury site.

"Americans deserve to know the truth about what's in their food," said Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit Management Co., in a statement. Bauccio said the company's cafes serve about 200,000 guests per day, many of them women of childbearing age; studies have suggested that mercury can disrupt a fetus's neural development. "Their health remains our first priority," Bauccio said.

Bon Appetit also buys organic and locally grown produce and meat, and serves eggs from free-range chickens. GotMercury.org was founded by the Turtle Island Restoration Network, an environmental group.

Seafood was back in the news this week when The National Academies of Science released a report called "Seafood Choices: Balancing Risk and Benefit."

The report calls evidence that links seafood to health benefits or detriments "preliminary or insufficient." However, the report did confirm a link between eating seafood and a lower risk of heart disease--and also confirmed that women of childbearing age should avoid consumption of lean, predatory fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, and limit their consumption of albacore, or "white," tuna.

"Seafood Choices," online at www.nationalacademies.org, was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with additional support from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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