This morning consumers were told that consuming mackerel might mean jeopardising the sustainability of fish stock. This comes on the back of a campaign, two years ago, in which celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver encouraged those same consumers to eat more... mackerel - in part by persuading folk to put down their bacon butties and replace them instead with the healthy 'mackerel bap' option.

On top of this, leading sustainability campaigners have not even agreed amongst themselves on the level of threat to mackerel stocks - with some groups asserting that they are no longer 'fish to eat' and others arguing that the problem is less severe than today's coverage suggests.

So, what is one to think? Well, a confession - on the question of who is right about stocks of mackerel I have no clue to the correct answer (if, indeed, there IS a correct answer). But there is a problem with the way in which this debate is being played out, a problem that affects much of the back-and-forth on nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Ethical consumers are faced with a barrage of advice, guidance and information - much of which is internally contradictory and often actively unhelpful. Policy makers want capable, informed individuals and families - who know how to make good choices.

Telling them on the one hand that they ought to eat more fish (as indeed they ought) for their brain, bowel and heart health but then on the other that the very fish most likely to have an impact on their health is unethical will lead only to confusion. Added to the disagreements between experts, it is difficult to see how an ordinary family, committed to ethical choices, is supposed to navigate their way through this minefield.

The debate is important, of course.  And goodness knows we need science to inform our decisions on what is healthy and what is ethical to eat. But central to it should be a regard for consumers - and this kind of change of heart needs to be accompanied by firm advice about what individuals should do, not just what they shouldn't.

Whatever one's perspective on the relative sustainability of particular fish stocks, over-complicating what is already a tricky issue for many families will not help consumers to eat the two portions of fish a week that the Government recommends.  We need to be clear and helpful to consumers who want to make healthy, ethical choices - not muddy the waters further.

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