Ask Stella

What do you think of the mercury toxicity reports as related to tuna consumption?

Question:   I think that you will be interested in the attached article aboutmercury in seafood, including canned tuna. It's on pages 11 and 12 of the Spring 2003 issue of Eating Well magazine. Please let me know what you think about its recommendations.
-Neil, Canada

Hi Neil. Thanks for writing and sending the article. I read it.  There are actually about 10 cases of solid white albacore tuna in my garage right now so that should tell you that I'm not worried about this mercury toxicity issue (and that I got a great deal on tuna one day!).    The reason is because the mercury toxicity issue pertains to larger fresh fish like halibut & swordfish, and fresh tuna steak, not so much to canned tuna.  The woman with mercury toxicity in the article that you sent to me admitted she ate halibut, tuna steaks, and swordfish almost every day. Oh, plus a little bit of vegetable & crackers and lemon juice (which kind of leads me to believe she was also undernourished in more general terms and perhaps just maybe this at least slightly concentrated the effect of the mercury).

Canned tuna is made from smaller tuna that have lived shorter lives and have smaller, almost negligible concentrations of mercury in them.  Here are the URLs to two other studies which should ease your concerns.  This Health Canada article doesn't point to canned tuna being an issue -it references the same large fresh fish as the article you sent me.  This second article from the Dave Draper site  was put together by the folks at Dave's Albacore Tuna in Santa Cruz (a tasty gourmet line of canned tuna).

I think the canned tuna limit in the article you sent offers consumption limits that are on the conservative side (a little over 1can/wk limit)  but I suppose one has to just compare studies/articles and then follow your own gut interpretation.  Excessive caffeine (coffee, diet soda), aspartame, saturated fat, and excessive sugar consumption are greater concerns to
public health in my mind than a few cans of tuna per week.  FWIW, I eat at least a can of tuna a day and once in awhile, salmon & tuna steak.  Unless you are eating swordfish everyday, I wouldn't worry too much about mercury toxicity from canned tuna.