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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;48(3):259-69. Epub 2007 Apr 30.

Impact of a risk-benefit advisory on fish consumption and dietary exposure to methylmercury in France.

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  • 1INRA-Met@risk, 16, Rue Claude Bernad, INA P-G-75005 Paris, France.


We designed the CORAI (COnsumer Risk Advisory Inquiry) study to observe consumer reactions' after an advisory revealing risk of methylmercury contamination together with benefits of Long-Chain Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids of the n-3 variety (LC n-3 PUFA). The message was very close to the ones commonly delivered by national food agencies and included recommendations for women of childbearing age and children below 15 years old. Two groups of subjects including consumers at risk were selected. Participants recorded the frequency of their fish consumption detailed by species for them and their family over a one-month period one month before, a month immediately after and 3 month after the advisory. Results were compared between consumers receiving the advisory and controls. Results show that the message revelation led to a significant decrease in total fish consumption which is greater for children below 6 years old than for the children between 6 and 15 years old and women. The consumption of the most contaminated fish quoted in the advisory, rarely consumed and poorly known by French consumers did not decrease in any group despite the advice to avoid their consumption. The consumption of other fish products quoted in the advisory but frequently consumed and better known, as canned tuna, did decrease and was a major contributor to the overall reduction of exposure for the advised group. Before the information, about 3% of women of childbearing age are exceeding the PTWI for MeHg and both the average and the high percentiles of the exposure to MeHg are decreasing significantly in the advised group. Regarding the number of subjects of the advised group exceeding the PTWI, they were 6, 3 and 2, respectively, in May, June and September. Accompanying questionnaires show that consumers imperfectly memorize most of the fish species quoted in the recommendation. This paper concludes that consumer advisory, which is a major tool for risk management, has a minimal effect under our experimental conditions to reduce the exposure of groups at risk. Messages to be carried to consumers should be carefully tested for long term memorization in order to become more effective.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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