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Is That Whitefish on Your Plate Toxic?

The Michigan Messenger’s Eartha Jane Melzer reports that if it comes from Lake Huron, it might be:

In its “2008 Michigan Family Fish Consumption Guide: Important facts to know if you eat Michigan fish,” the Michigan Department of Community Health warns that pre-menopausal women and children should avoid all lake trout and large whitefish from Lake Huron because elevated levels of PCBs and dioxin have been detected in samples taken by the Department of Environmental Quality.

But people who encounter these same fish in restaurants and fish markets across the country are unlikely to know about Michigan’s consumption advisory — commercial fisheries are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration which does not regularly screen for dioxin and doesn’t require that consumers be informed about state consumption advisories.

At Bay City [Mich.]’s Bay Fest over the Memorial Day weekend, representatives from Bayport Fish Co. said that most of their fish is sold to Jewish and Chinese distributors in Chicago and New York City.

According to a report by the university-based Michigan Sea Grant Extension, 60 percent of the commercially caught Great Lakes whitefish come from Lake Huron. In 2000, more than 3.5 million pounds of whitefish were harvested from the lake’s U.S.-administered waters.

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