Mercury levels in canned tuna could spike to ‘dangerous’ levels

If it’s not in retrograde then it might be in your canned tuna.

Some forms of canned tuna contain “unpredictable” spikes of mercury, suggesting pregnant women should avoid consuming it as it could pose a risk to their unborn child, according to a study released by Consumer Reports.

The organization tested 10 canned tuna products, all packed in water, from five brands: Chicken of the Sea, Safe Catch, StarKist, Wild Planet and Bumble Bee. In 30 samples that were taken, they found the canned fish had higher levels of mercury in all.

Canned tuna, which contains high protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids, is a popular food in the US, with 23% of the population eating it weekly, according to a survey conducted by the National Fisheries Institute in 2022.

The report noted that some types of canned fish, in particular the light and skipjack varieties, usually have relatively low average levels of mercury.

However, some varieties — particularly albacore — contain much higher levels.

The report says there are higher levels of mercury in canned tuna than consumers think.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“From can to can, mercury levels can spike in unpredictable ways that might jeopardize the health of a fetus,” James E. Rogers, director of Food Safety Research and Testing at Consumer Reports said in the report.

Consuming mercury is riskiest for infants, children and pregnant people. Possible health risks for kids include impaired brain function, loss of smell and developmental delays, as well as problems with the central nervous system and possible adverse effects on the cardiovascular system in adults, according to a food safety article published by Washington State University.

The study noted that FDA data showed “potentially dangerous spikes in mercury levels in some individual cans of tuna,” adding that pregnant individuals “should steer clear of it altogether” while some adults and children should “limit” consumption.

Close up of canned tuna.
The report noted that albacore tina tends to contain more mercury than other varieties.
Getty Images

However, the National Fisheries Institute — which represents Star-Kist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea — told The Post that the mercury levels found in the study were much lower than the FDA limit.

“Cans that include tuna with mercury levels of .58ppm [parts per million] or .66ppm are nowhere near the absolute lowest levels FDA itself associates with ‘adverse effects,’” representative Gavin Gibbons wrote in an email to The Post.

“The FDA’s action level, or the limit for mercury in fish, is 1.0ppm,” Gibbons noted. “Neither of these levels begin to even approach this limit and are completely safe to consume.”

According to the  FDA, eating seafood is the most common way to be exposed to mercury in the US, but most seafood doesn’t have levels high enough to have negative health effects.

The Post reached out to all of the companies in the report that said their products are safe and within the FDA standards.

This article was originally posted by The New York Post.

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Written by New York Post

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