Mercury in fish: A danger to pregnant women

Author John Battaglini

Posted Mar 7, 2023

Reads 7.9K

Food and Drinks Inside the Carton Box

How safe is canned tuna? In June 2005, Teri Curtis, a 22-year-old bartender from Bentonville, Arkansas saved money by making fewer trips to the grocery store and feeding her family plain tuna sandwiches for dinner. Her husband stopped eating dinner after a few days, but Teri continued to eat the cheap meal. However, her son Ryker was born weeks early with adenoids clusters in his hearing passageways. As a child, Curtis wondered if her health effects were due to mercury exposure during her entire pregnancy. Unfortunately, she may have consumed extreme amounts of mercury through canned tuna.

The dangers of consuming high levels of mercury are well-known. According to the Environmental Protection Agency estimate, around 300,000 babies are born every year with brain damage due to mercury exposure. A 2003 study published by San Francisco internist Jane Hightower MD found that 89 percent of female patients had high mercury levels correlated with memory loss, fatigue and muscle aches at lower-level amounts typically found in fish. Preliminary studies this year have also found that infants delivered prematurely have higher risks of having high mercury levels associated with coal-fired power plants in all 50 states spew out particles laced with mercury and incinerators at chlorine plants burn it so emissions travel through our rivers and lakes as well as natural sources like forest fires.

Mercury is converted into its toxic form called methylmercury when fish dine on smaller light eaters until eventually big fish eat small fish containing methylmercury. Government data shows that top-of-the-food-chain fish such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel can contain up to 14 mcg per gram – over 100 times more than cod, herring or clams. This raises concerns about canned tuna being one of the most popular seafood in the United States – generating close to $1 billion in sales annually. Dr Hightower notes that canned tuna involves large predator fish, such as tuna and mackerel, which can contain moderately high levels of mercury – about 0.35 mcg per gram in "light" canned tuna and low mercury in smaller species. Independent laboratory testing has shown that light canned tuna produced wildly varying levels with some cans bought at the supermarket testing higher than even tuna steaks. The FDA recommends that women of childbearing age consume no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna each week, but food safety David Acheson MD insists that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids

How often should you eat canned tuna?

The frequency of how often you should eat canned tuna can vary depending on several factors, including the specific type you choose to consume and dietary guidelines. Generally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends selecting varieties that are low in mercury. For adults, 4 ounces of canned light tuna is considered one serving, while children 11 years and under should only consume 1 serving which is equal to 1 oz, 2 oz or 3 oz depending on their age.

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Canned light tuna and other types such as canned fresh or frozen white albacore tuna and yellowfin tuna are good choices for regular consumption. The FDA advises that the general public can safely consume two servings of these types of fish per week. However, bigeye tuna contains higher levels of mercury which can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. Moreover, it is important to avoid raw fish as it poses a higher risk of foodborne illness.

Depending on federal, state or local advisories, some specific waterbodies may be considered unsafe to consume fish from due to high levels of mercury or other contaminants. Specific populations such as pregnant women and young children may also have different dietary guidelines and restrictions when it comes to consuming canned tuna. It is essential to check with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about consuming canned tuna regularly.

Insights from the Tuna Industry: Uncovering the Truth

When it comes to canned tuna, many people wonder about the potential risk, including concerns about mercury levels. The National Fisheries Institute (NFI), a trade association that represents canned tuna manufacturers, assures consumers that canned tuna is safe to consume. The FDA limit for mercury in fish is 1 part per million (ppm), and most canned tuna brands contain less than that.

However, some brands may have higher mercury levels than others. For example, Bumble Bee noted in 2019 that their albacore samples tested above the FDA limit, whereas Safe Catch's albacore tuna had much lower levels. Safe Catch cans skipjack wild tuna, which typically has some of the lowest mercury levels among all tuna species.

Safe Catch's CEO Bryan Boches told Consumer Reports that his company tests every single one of their 6 million individual tuna for mercury levels using strict limits. They test each catch method and size separately and offer both light and albacore options with low mercury levels. In contrast, other brands like Bumble Bee and Starkist offer a wider range of tuna products, including those with potentially higher average mercury levels. Wild Planet offers sustainable practice skipjack tunas with low levels of mercury as well as wild elite light tuna and chicken.

How to Select Tasty and Fresh Seafood: A Helpful Guide

When it comes to eating fish, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, eating good fish is essential because it provides protein, healthy fats, and other healthful fatty acids like omega-3s. Second, selecting fresh seafood from the grocery store aisle can be a challenge, especially with concerns about ocean pollution. When you're deciding which fish to buy, serving sizes are important to consider. Remember that a 4-ounce serving is an appropriate portion size for most adults, and the remaining ounce can come from other sources of protein.

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It's important to note that pregnant women should avoid canned tuna altogether due to mercury concerns. However, not all canned tuna is created equal - look for skipjack tuna as a lower-mercury option when choosing canned varieties. Other low-mercury fish listed by the FDA include oysters, salmon, and some types of shellfish. If you do choose to eat albacore (white) tuna or other types of fish with higher levels of mercury (such as bigeye tuna or sushi king mackerel), be mindful of age-based weekly serving recommendations and limit your total amount.

To ensure your seafood is both tasty and fresh, try buying frozen options instead of fresh if you don't live near the coast. Frozen seafood can often be a better choice than "fresh" options that have been sitting around for days or even weeks. When cooking seafood at home, consider using alternative sources of healthful fatty acids such as omega-3 enriched eggs, flax seeds, walnuts, soybean oil, or other food sources. By following these tips and being aware of what you're consuming, you can make informed choices about your seafood intake while still enjoying delicious meals!

Making the Choice: Albacore or Light Tuna

If you're a fan of canned tuna, you may be wondering which type is better - albacore or light tuna? According to CR's recent survey found in 10 products and 30 samples, it is important to consider the mercury levels when making safer choices. Seafood experts have suggested that larger tunas like albacore have higher mercury levels than smaller tunas cr tested such as skipjack tuna, which lives longer, leading to higher amounts of mercury accumulation in their bodies.

The big takeaway from CRS tests is that skipjack tuna and light tuna including skipjack had lower mercury levels compared to albacore products. Wild Planet's albacore and skipjack tunas were among those with levels low enough for weekly servings, but children shouldn't consume more than one serving of either type per week. On the other hand, adults can safely enjoy up to three 4-ounce servings of light tuna per week depending on their weight. The exception from this rule is Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna because its levels are closer to those found in some albacore tunas.

In summary, CRS experts suggest that choosing lower-mercury options can be a good benchmark for overall mercury consumption. While it is important to note that there was a larger variation in the mercury levels found in light tunas, such as Bumble Bee Albacore, compared to seas albacore. Therefore, consumers should remain cautious when adding canned tuna into their daily routines and should always read labels carefully before making any decisions about their seafood choices.

Tuna Turmoil: Why Eating Tuna Can Be a Problem

Tuna is an extremely popular fish that has been a staple of people's diets for ages. However, the way tuna fits into the food chain means that it isn't always safe to eat. Small fish are eaten by bigger fish, and as a result, mercury builds up in the biggest fish. This means that tuna can have higher mercury levels than other types of fish.

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Mercury contamination is not something to take lightly, especially for vulnerable groups like pregnant people and children with developing brains and nervous systems. Eating high amounts of mercury-contaminated fish like tuna can cause problems with fine motor coordination, speech, sleep, and even prickly sensations in some cases. The FDA has issued stricter guidelines on how much canned tuna people should eat per week assuming varying levels of mercury in different brands.

According to November 2022 CR survey data and FDAs recent findings, individual cans of light tuna can contain 4 ounces which would translate as one serving while typical 5-ounce cans leave the remaining ounce as a question mark. Based on these findings CRS food safety experts suggest steering clear from canned tuna if you are pregnant or fall under any vulnerable group category until further testing is made available. Michael Hansen PhD who is a senior scientist at CR advises following their guidance on this matter until there are new FDA guidelines put in place that make canned tuna safer to consume.

Removing Mercury from Tuna: A Game-Changing Solution

Tuna is one of the most popular seafood choices in the world. However, recent spot checks have shown that tuna caught in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans can contain high levels of mercury. While naturally occurring, human pollution notably from fossil fuels remains a major factor in mercury contamination. In a study of mercury contamination in tuna, Nicholas Fisher, PhD, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences at Stony Brook University, found that efforts made to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired plants in nearby nations have been incredibly successful.

Mercury pollution around the world suggests that reducing mercury emissions from power plants could reduce mercury contamination in tuna by up to 90 percent. Stricter regulations on coal-fired plants have made strides in removing mercury from the atmosphere, making it less likely that it will eventually rain down into our oceans. Additionally, old-fashioned mercury thermometers and batteries are being replaced with safer electric components, paints and pesticides to further reduce the amount of mercury entering our environment.

Recent tests measuring average mercury levels in canned tuna by both CR and the FDA show that actions aren't making people feel depressed about eating their favorite fish. For instance, Pacific fisher showed bit primarily lower than Atlantic we've shown before. Elsie Sunderland, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Harvard University emphasizes that efforts made to reduce mercury contamination in tuna testing inspires confidence that steps are being taken to protect consumers while maintaining healthy oceans for future generations.

Why Generosity is Good for You: The Benefits of Sharing

It has been scientifically proven that generosity and acts of kindness can lead to increased happiness, reduced stress levels, and improved physical health. When we share our resources, time, or talents with others, we not only make a positive impact on their lives but also experience a sense of fulfillment and purpose in our own. So the next time you're wondering if you should share that extra can of tuna with a neighbor or donate to a local food bank, remember that generosity not only benefits those around us but also ourselves. And don't worry about giving away your email addresses - there are plenty of ways to protect your privacy in today's digital age.

The Importance of Mercury Levels and Why They Matter

Mercury levels in canned tuna have been a topic of concern for many years. The FDA's recommendation for safe consumption is no more than three servings a week of general light tuna or one serving per week of albacore tuna. This is because higher mercury levels tend to be found in larger, older fish like sea albacore. In fact, according to CRS data, 20 percent of individual cans tested had mercury levels high enough to exceed the FDAs recommendation.

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It's important to note that even within the same brand and type of tuna, there can be unpredictable spikes in mercury content from individual cans. For example, Starkist Selects salt added albacore had an average mercury level that was twice as high as the week category, while Wild Planet Skipjack Tuna had an average mercury level that was six times lower than the albacore category. Overall, CRs data showed that 30 samples total from eight different brands exceeded the FDAs recommendation.

The bottom line is that consumers should pay attention to the type and amount of canned tuna they are consuming to ensure they are not exceeding recommended mercury levels. While light tuna tend to have lower mercury levels than albacore, it's still important to choose wisely and limit overall intake. By being aware and informed about mercury levels in canned tuna, we can make safer choices for our health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the dangers of eating tuna?

Consuming large amounts of tuna can lead to mercury poisoning, which can cause neurological and developmental damage, especially in young children and pregnant women. It is recommended to limit tuna consumption and choose lower-mercury options.

How many cans of tuna a week is safe?

According to the FDA, it is safe to consume up to 12 ounces (or 2 cans) of canned light tuna per week for adults. However, pregnant women and children should limit their intake due to the risk of mercury contamination.

How much tuna is safe to eat?

It is recommended to limit tuna consumption to 2-3 servings per week due to its high mercury content, which can have negative health effects if consumed in excess.

Is it safe to eat fish during pregnancy?

Yes, it is generally safe to eat fish during pregnancy as it provides important nutrients for both the mother and the developing baby. However, pregnant women should avoid certain types of fish that have high levels of mercury to reduce the risk of harm to the baby's developing nervous system.

Should you avoid fish because of mercury?

While some fish do contain mercury, it's still safe and healthy to eat fish in moderation as the benefits outweigh the risks. It's recommended to limit consumption of high-mercury fish and opt for low-mercury alternatives.

John Battaglini

John Battaglini

Writer at RHTB

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