PORTLAND (AP) – Maine health officials are taking their federal counterparts to task over the distribution of federal fish-eating recommendations they say conflict with more stringent state guidelines.

The federal recommendations for young children and women of childbearing age are based on the presence of mercury and are generic for all states where testing data is not available. Maine guidelines are based on statewide testing.

“The reason we’re making such a big stink about this is because we are worried there will be confusion in the doctor’s office about which brochure to use,” state toxicologist Dr. Andrew Smith said.

In a strongly worded letter sent last week to officials at the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, Dora Ann Mills, director of Maine’s Bureau of Health, criticized the agencies for failing to acknowledge Maine’s own, more rigorous fish consumption guidelines.

“On behalf of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, I want to formally express how disillusioned we are that your agencies decided not to work with us on the delivery of advice on eating fish to Maine families,” the letter opens.

In her letter, Mills said Maine’s guidelines for eating recreationally caught fish are “far more restrictive” than the federal recommendations.

Physicians and other practitioners will be confused as to which brochure to give to their at-risk patients, she said.

Maine has a study under way to assess the effectiveness of its brochure, which includes contacting new mothers and other consumers and asking if they received the brochure and whether it helped guide their fish consumption.

State health officials have said the presence of a competing brochure makes it harder to assess the effect of the information.

Mills said federal officials “have been very silent with us.”

A letter has been sent to all affected practitioners asking them not to distribute the federal guidelines.



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