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Media Watch: Advice abounds

Seafood a popular New Year's resolution topic

By April Forristall
February 01, 2010

The holidays have come and gone, which means packing on extra calories and New Year's vows to shed the surplus weight in the coming year.

The seafood industry traditionally benefits from New Year's resolutions, as the mainstream media bombards consumers with stories on how to get healthier in the New Year. The seafood industry got a few belated Christmas presents in the form of positive coverage as a result.

Scallops were on the list of six power foods that Men's Health magazine recommended its readers consume.

"Scallops are more than 90 percent protein. One 3-ounce serving provides 20 grams of protein and just 95 calories. They're also a good source of both magnesium and potassium (clams and oysters provide similar benefits)."

Houston Style magazine put salmon and other oily fish on its list of five "eating better" foods to add to your diet in 2010.

"Salmon and other oily fish - such as mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, trout, anchovies and sardines - are among the few food sources of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce fillet of cooked salmon contains 360 international units of vitamin D - almost a full day's recommended dietary allowance for anyone under the age of 70."

Speaking of sardines, Oprah Winfrey's Web site named the fish one of its 25 "super foods" of 2010. "Rich, delicious sardines not only contain more of the good stuff (omega-3s, calcium) and less of the bad (mercury) but are a sustainable choice." Canned salmon also made Oprah's list.

Mental health was on the minds of editors at Men's Fitness . Its "Go Fish" article listed ways to beat the holiday blues, such as boosting fish-oil consumption.

"Depressed patients have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are primarily found in fish. Just 2 to 3 grams of fish oil a day can leave you happier."

The Web site for am New York suggested consumers whose resolutions included becoming more "green" to look to their seafood to be more environmentally friendly. The article covered threatened species, ecosystem impacts, the farmed-versus-wild debate, fishing regulations and an interview with a Long Island fisherman. It also pointed sustainability-minded consumers to programs such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch seafood-buying guide.

However, despite the mainstream media's increased coverage of seafood during and after the holidays, a new element regarding sustainable seafood - eco-labels - is confusing consumers.

BBC News ran a story in late December that focused on a survey that found consumers are confused about seafood eco-labels. The story cites research from Stirling University that states "inconsistencies" in labeling create confusion.

"Working from different data sets has led to results that are inconsistent between schemes and have thus created confusion for consumers. What's more, certain schemes do not openly declare their views about certain types of fishing, so that some species will be excluded from a 'sustainability' list simply because of the way it's caught."

However, it wouldn't be mainstream coverage of the industry without a little misinformation thrown in for good measure. The Boston Globe ran "Fishing for facts," which claimed "fish presents a quandary for even the savviest of shoppers or diners, buffeted by conflicting reports on health benefits and environmental impact, not to mention food-borne illnesses."

The article's advice is fishy though, since contamination from mishandling seafood - like with any meat - is more cause for concern than food-borne illnesses.

The Globe did a decent job of getting it right, except for its stance on methylmercury contamination, which prompted the Center for Consumer Freedom to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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