News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, a bipartisan group of 29 Senators led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), wrote a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff to express concern over continued delays in establishing updated final advice to pregnant women on seafood consumption.

In the letter, Murray and Isakson, along with Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), James Lankford (R-OK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), David Perdue (R-GA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), David Vitter (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) urged the FDA to finalize its nutritional advice to be consistent with the latest science, so that women can make informed decisions about what to eat to be healthy and ensure their children get the best possible start.

“Ensuring that women have the best advice that reflects the latest nutrition science about what to eat during pregnancy, for their health and the health of their children, is of the utmost importance,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “…Further delays make it more difficult for pregnant women to make informed decisions about what to eat to provide their unborn children with the best possible start to life. It is critical that FDA finalize its nutritional advice as soon as possible in a manner that is consistent with the latest science.”

Full text of the letter:

Dear Dr. Ostroff:

We write to express our concern over continued delays in establishing updated final advice to pregnant women on seafood consumption from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ensuring that women have the best advice that reflects the latest nutrition science about what to eat during pregnancy, for their health and the health of their children, is of the utmost importance.

On August 22, 2011, then-Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to our colleagues in the Senate, “I assure you that this matter is currently under review, and we expect to issue revised draft consumption advice this year for public comment.” Instead of being released in 2011, this draft advice was not released until June 2014 – three years later. In the 43 months that have passed since Secretary Sebelius’ commitment, approximately 14 million children have been born in the United States without the benefit of updated advice regarding seafood consumption and fetal development.

Many pregnant women are affected by the federal nutrition advice, and it must reflect the most up-to-date scientific evidence. We understand medical professional societies have indicated they are waiting for FDA to finalize its updated advice before they recommend their healthcare professionals begin educating pregnant women based on the new advice. Further delays make it more difficult for pregnant women to make informed decisions about what to eat to provide their unborn children with the best possible start to life.

It is critical that FDA finalize its nutritional advice as soon as possible in a manner that is consistent with the latest science. For example, we note the recent recommendation of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that the FDA should re-evaluate its advice for pregnant and breastfeeding women to limit their consumption of white albacore tuna. Final advice on this and all issues should also be clearly communicated to be easily understood by all stakeholders, including pregnant women from diverse backgrounds.

In June 2014, you made the following statement at the release of the draft seafood advice: “For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children . . . But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.” Based on your statement about the importance of this new advice, we expect the FDA to make finalizing the advice according to the latest science a priority.

Sincerely,

Senator Johnny Isakson             Senator Patty Murray