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Mercury advisories and household health trade-offs

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  • Shimshack, Jay P.
  • Ward, Michael B.

Abstract

The conventional economic wisdom is that improving consumer information will enhance welfare. Yet, some scientists speculate that the Food and Drug Administration's prominent 2001 mercury in fish advisory may have harmed public health. Lower mercury intakes reduce neurological toxicity risks. However, since seafood is the predominant dietary source of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, reduced fish consumption may have significant offsetting health impacts. We explore this risk trade-off using a rich panel of household-level seafood consumption data. To control for confounding factors, we use a non-parametric changes-in-changes approach. We find strong evidence that while the advisory reduced mercury loadings, it did so at the expense of substantial reductions in healthful omega-3s. We find this response pattern even for consumers with low fish consumption. Using advisory response patterns as inputs into a prominent risk assessment model, the central estimate is that net benefits from the advisory were negative.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 22584.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:22584

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Keywords: food safety; mercury; fish; omega-3 fatty acids; advisory; public health; health information;

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References

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  1. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
  2. Kuchler, Fred & Tegene, Abebayehu, 2006. "Did Bse Announcements Reduce Beef Purchases?," Economic Research Report 7251, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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  8. Krupnick, Alan & McGuinness, Meghan & Jakus, Paul, 2002. "The Benefits and Costs of Fish Consumption Advisories for Mercury," Discussion Papers dp-02-55, Resources For the Future.
  9. Hamilton, James L, 1972. "The Demand for Cigarettes: Advertising, the Health Scare, and the Cigarette Advertising Ban," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 54(4), pages 401-11, November.
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  11. Shimshack, Jay P. & Ward, Michael B. & Beatty, Timothy K.M., 2007. "Mercury advisories: Information, education, and fish consumption," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 158-179, March.
  12. Ian Skurnik & Carolyn Yoon & Denise C. Park & Norbert Schwarz, 2005. "How Warnings about False Claims Become Recommendations," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(4), pages 713-724, 03.
  13. Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. "Do Smokers Underestimate Risks?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1253-69, December.
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  15. Jay Shimshack, 2004. "Are Mercury Advisories Effective? Inofrmation, Education, and Fish Consumption," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0423, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  16. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2003. "The Effect Of Information On Product Quality: Evidence From Restaurant Hygiene Grade Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 409-451, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Rheinberger, Christoph M. & Hammitt, James K., 2011. "Risk-Risk Tradeoffs in Fish Consumption: Can You Have the Cake and Eat It Too?," 2011 International Congress, August 30-September 2, 2011, Zurich, Switzerland 114813, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  2. Mertens, Frédéric & Saint-Charles, Johanne & Mergler, Donna, 2012. "Social communication network analysis of the role of participatory research in the adoption of new fish consumption behaviors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(4), pages 643-650.
  3. Hammitt, James & Rheinberger, Christoph, 2013. "The Welfare Value of FDA’s Mercury-in-Fish Advisory: A Dynamic Reanalysis," TSE Working Papers 13-409, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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