Murkowski Presses FDA Nominee on Seafood Issues

FDA Commissioner Nominee Questioned on Pollock Labeling, Nutrition Advice

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski recently questioned Dr. Robert Califf in a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing regarding his nomination to be the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Murkowski began her line of questioning by pressing Dr. Califf to reconsider the FDA’s refusal to use its regulatory authority to change the acceptable market name of pollock in order to avoid consumer confusion as to where the fish is harvested. Senator Murkowski recently introduced legislation, along with Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Patty Murray (D-WA) seeking to differentiate American-caught seafood from Russian-harvested seafood.

Senator Murkowski questioned Dr. Califf on the FDA’s reluctance to change the market name:

“I would ask you again to look at the issue we have raised repeatedly before the FDA regarding pollock nomenclature. As you know, this is something where we contend that you have the regulatory authority to change the acceptable market name from Alaska pollock to pollock, so that we can put some limitation/parameters on what we’re seeing from the large volume of Russia-harvested pollock that is sold to US consumers as Alaska pollock. I have repeatedly raised this and ask that you work to expedite this change and remove the blockade that has been created within the FDA’s bureaucracy regarding this pollock nomenclature.”

Dr. Califf responded by saying, “as you know, we’re still open for comments thinking about this, and I will work with you to come to a resolution on this issue.”

(Senator Murkowski questions Dr. Califf on pollock nomenclature. Click image to watch video.)

Senator Murkowski also asked Dr. Califf about the FDA’s impending advice to pregnant women on seafood consumption. In 2014, the FDA released a statement on draft seafood advice that said “science now tells us that limiting or avoiding seafood during pregnancy or early childhood could mean missing out on important nutrients that could have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on your general health.” However, concerns have been raised that the FDA has now revised this advice.

Senator Murkowski questioned Dr. Califf about the revisions:

“The question to you this morning is: what is the status of the FDA seafood advice for pregnant women? I would like to hear from you specifically on whether or not when that advice is released, the final seafood advice for pregnant women and nursing mothers will be based in science, namely using the Net Effects Report?”

Dr. Califf responded to Murkowski, saying:

“Well, we base it on all the scientific facts that can be brought to bear, that accumulate over time. So, these will all be considered. I think you’ll be happy with the recommendation when it comes out.”

(Dr. Califf responds to Senator Murkowski’s questions on seafood guidelines for pregnant women. Click image to watch video.)