Friday, June 26, 2009

Humana wants you to eat a nice healthy... shark steak

Today, I am embarrassed to call myself a Chicagoan.

Just when you thought people were catching on to the issues with eating shark, we were shocked to learn that a supposed leader in health care known for enabling people to make well-informed decisions regarding their health and healthy lifestyles is recommending the consumption of shark – in a very public format. Yes, you heard that right. Humana - a HEALTH CARE organization - has decided to promote shark meat as one of the "healthier choice" entrees featured at the Taste of Chicago festival. The dish, Shark Vera Cruz, is being served by Polo Café, and owner Dave Samber, to the millions of individuals attending the two-week festival who may choose to take Humana up on their incredibly irresponsible and erroneous recommendation.

Humana has effectively provided a seal of approval for a “dish” that carries warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Defense Fund, Seafood Watch, and the New York Department of Health, to name but a few highly respected organizations. I guess Humana is saying you can cut the calories and pile on the Mercury?

Indeed, there is much research and publicly available data regarding the serious issues associated with consumption of shark meat due to the health risks posed by the high levels of mercury and other contaminants found in the shark’s flesh. Mercury that is known to cause significant health issues for pregnant women and children. Humana, what were you thinking?

In addition to the risks posed by consuming sharks personally, it is hard to believe they can ignore the significant health risks posed to our planet. Sharks around the world are threatened with extinction due to overfishing. Studies out this week indicate conservatively that a 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction. With populations of many shark species down by as much as 90%, this news couldn’t have come at a worse time. Humana, what were you thinking?

How can Humana, a supposed environmental leader, not realize as the apex predators of the oceans, the role of sharks is to keep other marine life in healthy balance and to regulate the world’s largest and most important ecosystem? Instead, they are supporting the continued consumption and removal of sharks from the very environment upon which we depend – wreaking havoc on our planet. Those of us who read are well aware that regional elimination of sharks can cause disastrous effects including the collapse of fisheries and the death of coral reefs. Humana, what were you thinking?

We have notified Humana and have made them aware of the situation. Educated and enlightened, Humana should immediately rescind its recommendation and MORE IMPORTANTLY issue a retracting statement to all media outlets the recommendations were promoted to (which sadly are quite extensive). The damage that has been done needs to be undone immediately. Additionally, the recommendation should be withdrawn from the literature at the Taste of Chicago booth, and instead, women and children should be properly warned about the dangers of consuming sharks – consistent with the recommendations of the EPA and the FDA.

Please appeal to Humana, the City of Chicago, and Polo Café, as we have, to stop supporting tthe consumption of shark meat: for our, and our planet's, health. And please copy all of the media outlets that have carried the story. You can make phone calls or send emails to the following individuals:

Polo Café:
Dave Samber - Owner
+1 (773) 927-POLO

Jim Turner - Manager, Corporate Media Relations
+1 (502) 476-2119

City of Chicago, Mayor's Office of Special Events (MOSE)
Megan McDonald, Executive Director
Mayor's Office of Special Events
121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 806
Chicago, IL 60602