The Suffolk County Legislature began consideration of a bill to require restaurants that serve fish to post warnings about possible mercury contamination, as a Nesconset teenager testified Tuesday she was poisoned last year after eating too much sushi and too many tuna sandwiches.
The bill, which the county legislature will consider next month, would require food establishments to post warnings on menus that certain types of fish contain high levels of mercury.
Alisa Azzarelli, 16, testified Tuesday that the legislation would raise awareness about to the risks of mercury poisoning as seafood becomes more popular, particularly with young people.
Azzarelli, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, said she was eating seafood about three times a week last year when she developed debilitating migraines and mood swings. Blood tests, which don’t normally test for mercury, were inconclusive.
Her mother, Lisa Azzarelli, remembered a television news segment from decades ago about mercury poisoning.
When a blood test for mercury came back, the amount in Alisa Azzarelli’s blood was twice the level that causes poisoning, her mother said.
No one spoke against the bill, which is sponsored by Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset).
The Suffolk Restaurant and Tavern Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The measure would require notices on menus reading: “Warning: Certain fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can cause health problems, especially to women of childbearing age and young children, if not consumed in moderation. If you would like additional information, please ask your server.”
Grocery and convenience stores would not be required to post the notices.
Food establishments that fail to post the warning would get a written warning from the county Department of Health. Subsequent violations would carry fines of between $50 and $100.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines recommend that pregnant women and children avoid certain seafood that can be high in mercury, including shark, marlin and bigeye tuna.
The FDA recommends no more than one serving per week of other fish including bluefish, striped bass and yellowfin tuna, and two to three servings a week of shrimp, salmon and squid.