Chicago Tribune: Canned Tuna High in Mercury

Posted on December 30, 2005

A Chicago Tribune investigative report has found that canned tuna is high in mercury despite what the government says.

The government, for example, has stated repeatedly that canned light tuna is low in mercury and a nutritious choice for pregnant mothers and children.

What it doesn't tell you is that tens of millions of those cans actually contain tuna that is high in mercury. And you would never know which can is less safe from reading the labels.

A 161-pound woman - the average weight of women ages 18-45 - who ate a couple of sandwiches a week of that kind of light tuna would exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines for mercury exposure.

The tuna in cans mainly comes from three kinds: skipjack, yellowfin and albacore. Skipjack has the lowest level of mercury - the average woman could eat almost three cans a week without consuming risky amounts of mercury.

Albacore and yellowfin have higher levels - she could eat no more than a can a week without risk.

The most significant mercury risk is to pregnant women because it can harm the developing fetus. The article says small children are also at risk because children with mercury exposure "can suffer subtle delays in walking and talking as well as decreases in attention span and memory." The article says adults can also suffer memory and concentration problems from mercury exposure. It is very unfortunate that canned tuna has high mercury levels because otherwise it is a low-fat healthy food that is high in protein which can be great for people on a diet. The dilemma for the consumer is with pollution rising throughout the world is what exactly can one safely consume? It is a complex problem that has many concerned parents shopping for organic foods and spending extra time researching various chemicals and toxins.

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