The Mercury Policy Project (MPP) and a coalition of other consumer groups have released a report claiming that canned albacore tuna sold in U.S. schools may contain higher mercury levels than those reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Of the 59 canned tuna samples that MPP tested from this market sector, 48 were “light” tuna products representing six brands and 11 were “white” or albacore tuna products representing two brands. Although the report acknowledged that “the mercury content of these products is similar to what has been reported for supermarket canned tuna by other investigators and by [FDA],” it nevertheless alleged that the albacore tuna samples “averaged 0.560 μg/g, much higher than FDA’s reported average of .350 μg/g.” The results also purportedly indicated a high variably in mercury content across tuna samples, revealing, for example, that U.S-caught light tuna “had the lowest country-oforigin average mercury level, 0.086 μg/g,” while Ecuador-caught light tuna “had by far the highest average level, 0.254 μg/g.”
Based on these findings and concerns over prolonged mercury exposure, the report ultimately recommended, among other things, that (i) all children avoid albacore tuna; (ii) smaller children eat light tuna “no more than once a month,” (iii) schools and parents “limit most children’s light tuna consumption to twice a month,” (iv) schools and parents “identify children who ‘love tuna’ and eat it often, and limit them to two tuna meals per month,” (v) children never eat tuna every day, and (vi) parents “whose children eat tuna once a week or more” have their children’s blood tested for mercury.” MPP has also urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to phase out school lunch program subsidies for tuna and exhorted the research community to focus on short-term exposure “spikes.”
“Fish, including tuna, is generally a nutritious part of a healthy diet,” said Sarah Klein, a staff attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which co-sponsored the report. “But especially for our littlest, most vulnerable children, we have to make sure the risks from mercury in tuna don’t outweigh the tuna’s benefits. We’re urging parents and schools to limit children’s tuna consumption and, when they do serve it, to choose lower-mercury options.” See CSPI Press Release, September 19, 2012.