Tests Show Top Tuna Brands Have High Mercury Levels
White typically has greater levels of the toxin than light, researchers say
-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Tests on more than 300 samples of canned tuna from the top three brands in the United States revealed that more than half contained mercury levels above what's considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), found that 55 percent of the samples had mercury levels higher than the EPA standard of 0.5 parts per million (ppm) and 5 percent had levels higher than the 1.0 ppm safety level set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for commercially sold fish.
The health effects of mercury poisoning include central nervous system damage, hearing loss and vision problems.
"Canned tuna accounts for up to a quarter of the nation's seafood consumption and creates some significant regulatory challenges," study author Shawn Gerstenberger, an environmental and occupational health professor, said in a UNLV news release. "With pregnant women and children the most susceptible to mercury poisoning -- yet also among the top consumers of canned tuna -- federal agencies need to urge distributors to expressly state mercury levels in their products."
The researchers found significant differences in mercury concentration by type (white and light) and brand. One brand had consistently elevated mercury levels, and white tuna from all three brands had the highest concentrations of mercury. White tuna comes from albacore, a different species of fish than "light" tuna.
"Mercury concentration in fish has a lot to do with the environment they're in, but since the locations of where the fish are harvested are not made available to consumers, it is very difficult to positively identify and reduce the source of the exposure," Gerstenberger said.
The researchers said federal regulators should require canned tuna producers to provide detailed information to consumers about the mercury content of each product and to disclose tuna harvest locations. In addition, the EPA and FDA need to have similar tuna consumption guidelines to lessen consumer confusion.
The study is published in the February issue of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.
Many states have adopted EPA guidelines on tuna consumption, which suggest an average child consume only one can of tuna roughly every two weeks to ensure an acceptable level of mercury exposure.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has more about the health effects of mercury.
SOURCE: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, news release, Jan. 31, 2010
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Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume 29 Issue 2, Pages 237 - 242
Published Online: 12 Oct 2009
Copyright (c) 2010 SETAC
An evaluation of mercury concentrations in three brands of canned tuna
Shawn L. Gerstenberger 1 *, Adam Martinson 2, Joanna L. Kramer 1
1School of Community Health Sciences, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA
2Department of Environmental Studies, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA
email: Shawn L. Gerstenberger (email@example.com)
*Correspondence to Shawn L. Gerstenberger, School of Community Health Sciences, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA.
Mercury . Methylmercury . Canned . Tuna . Brand
There is widespread concern over the presence of Hg in fish consumed by humans. While studies have been focused on determining the Hg concentration in sport fish and some commercial fish, little attention has been directed to canned tuna; it is widely held that concentrations are low. In the present study, the amount of Hg present in canned tuna purchased in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, was examined, and the brand, temporal variation, type, and packaging medium impacts on Hg concentrations in tuna were explored. A significant (p < 0.001) brand difference was noted: Brand 3 contained higher Hg concentrations ( standard deviation (SD) (0.777 ± 0.320 ppm) than Brands 1 (0.541 ± 0.114 ppm) and 2 (0.550 ± 0.199 ppm). Chunk white tuna (0.619 ± 0.212 ppm) and solid white tuna (0.576 ± 0.178 ppm) were both significantly (p < 0.001) higher in mean Hg than chunk light tuna (0.137 ± 0.063 ppm). No significant temporal variation was noted, and packaging had no significant effect on Hg concentration. In total, 55% of all tuna examined was above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) safety level for human consumption (0.5 ppm), and 5% of the tuna exceeded the action level established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) (1.0 ppm). These results indicate that stricter regulation of the canned tuna industry is necessary to ensure the safety of sensitive populations such as pregnant women, infants, and children. According to the U.S. EPA reference dose of 0.1 ?g/kg body weight per day and a mean Hg value of 0.619 ppm, a 25-kg child may consume a meal (75 g) of canned chunk white tuna only once every 18.6 d. Continued monitoring of the industry and efforts to reduce Hg concentrations in canned tuna are recommended. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:237-242. (c) 2009 SETAC
Received: 9 March 2009; Revised: 22 June 2009; Accepted: 3 August 2009
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