Some Canned Fish Safer For Women in Childbearing Years

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
CHICAGO - In order to meet public health standards and ensure the safety of infants and developing fetuses, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Action Level for mercury in commercial fish should be reduced from 1000 parts per billion, according to researchers' study of canned fish published in this month's issue of Journal of Food Science. Authors consider this reduction a way for women of child-bearing age who regularly eat substantially high amounts of canned tuna to benefit from its important omega-3 fatty acids and remain safe from exposing their babies to unhealthy levels of mercury.

The study measured mercury and omega-3 fatty acids in canned tuna, salmon and mackerel.

All mercury levels in the fish studied were found well below the FDA's Action Level and should be considered safe for the general populace.

The study also recommends introduction of a "kid-safe" label for the variety of canned tuna shown to have very low mercury levels comparable to canned salmon and mackerel.

"By recommending a 'kid-safe' label we are not implying canned tuna is unsafe," said Charles Santerre, co-author of the study, a fish toxicologist and professor at Purdue University. "For the average consumer, canned tuna is a safe and nutritious food when eaten in moderation."

"An alternative to 'kid-safe' would be a 'kid nutritious' label, used on light tuna that could be fortified with DHA, the healthy omega-3 fatty acid. It's the light tuna that is lower in mercury but also lower in the DHA that kids need."

Meantime, another recommendation of the authors' is for pregnant or nursing women and children to reduce their intake of canned white albacore tuna and eat more canned salmon and mackerel. Each is higher in the omega-3 fatty acids.

"A few months ago we replaced canned tuna with salmon-in-a-pouch to make salmon-salad sandwiches. Kids loved it," Santerre said.

The Journal of Food Science is published by the international not-for-profit scientific society Institute of Food Technologists.

Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 26,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see www.ift.org.

Contact: James N. Klapthor, Media Relations Manager
Phone: 312/782-8424 ext. 231
E-mail: jnklapthor@ift.org

More Information

» Mercury and Fatty Acids in Canned Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel
Vol. 69, Nr. 9, 2004-JOURNAL OF FOOD SCIENCE