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SEAFOOD INDUSTRY CRITICIZES CONSUMER REPORTS: EXAGGERATED RESULTS, POOR METHODOLOGY

 SEAFOOD INDUSTRY CRITICIZES CONSUMER REPORTS:
 EXAGGERATED RESULTS, POOR METHODOLOGY
 /ADVANCE/ ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Fisheries Institute issued the following:
 The National Fisheries Institute (NFI), trade association for the fish and seafood industry, today responded to a press statement issued by Consumer Reports on its investigation of the quality and wholesomeness of fish and seafood.
 "The seafood industry disputes Consumer Reports' allegations regarding the quality and safety of seafood," said Lee J. Weddig, executive vice president of the NFI. "It is invalid to infer that a high percentage of the fish available to the consumer is spoiled, when such a sweeping conclusion is based on a geographically and numerically limited sample and inappropriate analytical method.
 "As reaffirmed by a 1991 study by the National Academy of Sciences, we feel strongly that the nation's supply of seafood is inherently safe and wholesome and that the American consumer need not worry unnecessarily about the safety of the fish and seafood supply. American consumers have increased their fish consumption by 25 percent in the past decade. Obviously they have confidence in the seafood supply," added Weddig.
 According to the NFI, the Aerobic Plate Count, or APC bacteria test used by Consumer Reports as a sole indicator in determining the quality of raw fish, is imprecise and of limited use as a quality indicator. There are several reasons for this:
 -- There are many types of bacteria found on all raw foods.
 -- Not all bacteria counted in an APC test cause spoilage. Studies have suggested that perceivable spoilage in fish does not occur until certain types of spoilage bacteria reach threshold levels. The APC test does not distinguish between certain types of bacteria.
 -- The number of bacteria found naturally on the surfaces of the skin, gills and in the gut, varies considerably among species. This and the nature of the species itself will affect APC results.
 -- The APC test relies on the skill of the analyst, creating a margin of error.
 Fish tested and identified as containing the same levels of bacteria vary in quality. This is one reason why there are no federal standards utilizing APC methodology in determining the safety or quality of raw fish. As with all animal proteins, cooking destroys bacteria of all types.
 Other invalid conclusions pertain to PCB's and consumption of salmon, swordfish and lake whitefish. Consumer Reports analysis shows detectable levels of PCBs in salmon, swordfish and lake whitefish. From this it advises restricted consumption of these products. Consumer Reports conclusions are invalid. Few of the samples reached FDA tolerance or action levels. Consumer Reports' conclusion is based on its own arbitrary PCB "contaminant level" which is lower than FDA tolerance. The limited samples invalidate any conclusions on the extent of the PCB contamination, and more importantly, any sweeping generalized advice to consumers.
 The federal regulatory program directed at seafoods has expanded greatly during the past year. NFI has lobbied for congressional legislation to strengthen the nation's seafood regulatory and inspection systems. Last April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a budget of $9.4 million, established the Office of Seafood in an effort to continue to assure consumers that the seafood they buy is safe, wholesome, properly labeled and of the highest possible quality. FDA has double its staff and undertaken the challenging program of inspecting each of the 4,100 seafood processing plants in the United States.
 The National Fisheries Institute is a non-profit trade association of 1,000 companies involved in all aspects of the U.S. fish and seafood industry -- producers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, brokers, importers, exporters and members of allied supportive industries. The institute provides government relations, technical and educational/communications services in support of industry objectives and goals.
 -0- 1/16/92
 /NOTE: Interviews are available./
 /CONTACT: Allison Wheeler, Clare Vanderbeek or Emily Holt of the National Fisheries Institute, 703-524-8881/ CO: National Fisheries Institute ST: IN: SU:


SB -- DC023 -- 0135 01/15/92 15:54 EST
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Date:Jan 15, 1992
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