Tuna Safety

ahi saladThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently advises pregnant women and women of childbearing age, as well as young children, to avoid eating any swordfish, shark, king mackerel, or tilefish. But according to the FDA’s own test results, other fish are at least as toxic. Grouper, sea trout, orange roughy, and bluefish all have higher levels of mercury than tilefish. So does albacore (“white”) tuna, a staple in the diets of many Americans, especially children.

After pressure from watchdog groups and its own advisory panel, in 2004 the FDA recommended that these vulnerable populations consume no more than six ounces of albacore tuna a week. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focusing on the environment and human health, says that’s not good enough. It recommends that pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children under five avoid albacore altogether. “People eating this tuna will exceed safe exposure levels by a wide margin.” The EWG’s website (www.ewg.org) offers a “tuna calculator” to help people compute how much tuna they can safely eat.

Canned albacore contains almost three times as much mercury as light. Rhode Island and Vermont have taken responsibility for getting the word out to their citizens that albacore tuna is unsafe for sensitive populations. Safer fish include wild Pacific and Alaska salmon; pollock and haddock; and most shellfish, including clams, mussels, and scallops. Fish sticks, generally made from haddock, are a safe choice for kids. (see http://www.oceansalive.org)