Jeremy Piven's "Sushigate" Mercury Poisoning Claims Don't Jibe With Seafood Science

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Actor would be the first documented U.S. case but probably isn’t, says consumer group.

Tall tales of mercury poisoning just make Americans afraid to eat fish, and that's horrible for public health.

Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) called on actor Jeremy Piven to come clean about the reason for his departure from the Broadway production of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow.” Established science on seafood and health, says the group, indicates that his claim of having sushi-related mercury poisoning is likely to be false.

“The entire medical literature doesn't contain a single documented U.S. case of mercury poisoning from eating fish sold in restaurants and supermarkets,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “Piven isn't going to change that by making a convenient escape from a job he doesn't like.”

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said that the benefits of eating fish far outweigh any hypothetical risk from trace levels of naturally-occurring toxins.

According to the online calculator at, if Piven weighs about 160 pounds he would have to eat at least 3.4 pounds of sushi-grade tuna -- that’s 108 pieces of tuna sushi roll -- every week for his entire lifetime in order to introduce any new health risks from mercury.

“Piven may not know it, but he’s playing games with Americans’ health,” continued Martosko, pointing to evidence about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fish. “Tall tales of mercury poisoning just make Americans afraid to eat fish, and that's horrible for public health.”

A new CCF report, titled “Tuna Meltdown,” found that over a quarter-million underprivileged children were at risk of having abnormally low IQs during a recent seven-year period because their low-income mothers were too scared to eat fish during their pregnancies. This, says CCF, is the result of exaggerated government mercury warnings and high-profile anti-seafood campaigns from environmental groups.

Added Martosko: “I can't confirm the rumors that Piven complained about being ‘bored out of his mind’ on Broadway, but that would explain why his co-stars and producers have been so skeptical of his mercury story. Someone should challenge Piven to try his ‘sushi defense’ at a Kabuki theatre. Most ordinary Japanese eat far more fish than Piven. But they don't make outlandish health claims whenever they feel like a career change.”

To schedule an interview, contact Sarah Longwell at 202.463.7112.

To read “TUNA MELTDOWN,” visit

About the Center for Consumer Freedom
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. Additional information is available at

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Sarah Longwell - 202.463.7112


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