While I couldn’t make the test results or the University that did the testing public I did share the results and the University with Ret Talbot. Who wrote an article with is take this situation and the data behind it [sic]. Now I was painted as the man who cried wolf but that is just one mans [sic] take on it.
—Thomas Brown of Thomas Vision Reef
On Monday, April 20, 2015, CORAL Magazine published my article titled “Crying Wolf: Mercury in Aquarium Fish Foods, Social Media and the Controversy that Shouldn’t Have Been”regarding a report that a popular but unnamed frozen fish food contained extremely high levels of mercury. In my coverage, I concluded that the claim, which was made by Thomas Brown of Thomas Vision Reef, a YouTube “aquarium web series,” was unsubstantiated and highly suspect. After my article was published, Brown revealed he had sent the report’s results to me before I published, writing on a blog he created for discussing the issue:
While I couldn’t make the test results or the University that did the testing public I did share the results and the University with Ret Talbot. Who wrote an article with is take this situation and the data behind it. Now I was painted as the man who cried wolf but that is just one mans take on it.
Since Brown published this statement, I have received numerous inquiries about the test results. The purpose of this blog entry is to respond to those inquiries as best as I am able, and bring readers up to speed on the most recent developments in this ongoing story. To briefly recap the story, the allegations of high mercury concentrations in a popular frozen fish food came Friday, April 17, 2015, from Brown, who claimed tests he commissioned with an associate, performed by “a local university,” yielded a result estimated to be in excess of 20mg per gram of mercury in a sampled fish food. Given that this result is 20,000 times the FDA threshold for human consumption and more than 10,000 times greater than concentrations of mercury in the most mercury-laden fish included in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mercury in commercial seafood database, Brown’s allegations received immediate attention. They were extraordinary–sensational, even. As a journalist who covers fisheries issues and seafood, including several stories about mercury in seafood, I was very interested in the claims being made by Brown.
A Data-Centric Story
I knew immediately that telling this story needed to be about the data, so I obviously wanted to…