The Beacon

Mercury on the Mind ... Part Two

Still reeling over all the mercury-in-seafood news (or just catching up)? Basically, in the past two weeks four independent newspaper studies (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times), a private company (MASI) and a non-profit (Oceana, woo hoo!) showing that mercury levels can be quite high in fresh tuna and swordfish. To put these reports in context, let's cover a couple items. ...

In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint advisory warning women of childbearing age to avoid eating shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish while limiting consumption of albacore tuna and fresh tuna (like tuna steaks and sushi) to six ounces or less a week.

The FDA has some data on these fish in question. For instance, king mackerel (one of the fish to "avoid") samples from the FDA have an average mercury level of 0.73 parts per million.

Oceana's samples of fresh tuna from sushi restaurants have an average mercury level of 0.86 ppm. In total, all four studies found fresh tuna with mercury levels higher than the average king mackerel levels from the FDA.

You may have also heard about the FDA "action level" - it's the point where the government can legally remove a product from sale, and for seafood with mercury that limit is 1 ppm.

Three out of the four studies found levels of mercury in fresh tuna samples above the FDA's action level. In the other study that didn't quite reach the 1 ppm mark, they found a mercury level of 0.99 ppm in a fresh tuna sample. ...

You'd think when you go to a supermarket, the seafood counter attendant would at least be able to let you know which fish have higher mercury levels, right?

Unfortunately, in our report, we found this to be hopeful thinking. ... More on that later.


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