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How worried should you be about mercury in canned tuna? Consumer Reports explains

Posted at 6:32 AM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 07:32:27-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — It’s cheap, convenient, full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and a classic staple in our lunches: canned tuna.

But the nutritional powerhouse from the sea comes with a warning.

“Tuna, just like other fish, can contain mercury. And if you eat a lot of fish, you can expose yourself to this potentially dangerous heavy metal,” said Jim Rogers, a Consumer Reports food safety scientist.

High amounts of mercury can lead to problems with fine motor coordination, speech, sleep, and walking. It’s also concerning for pregnant people, since the developing brain and nervous system of the fetus is vulnerable.

Because so many people eat tuna, and because of its potential risks, Consumer Reports tested five popular brands of canned tuna for mercury.

The results? Popular albacore tuna had the highest mercury levels, while light varieties had relatively low mercury on average — though results varied from can to can.

“There were some cans we tested that had high amounts of mercury. And because you cannot tell which can that you purchased has high amounts of mercury, you may be possibly exposing yourself to dangerous levels of this heavy metal,” Rogers said.

For that reason, Consumer Reports recommends that pregnant people should completely avoid tuna.

In response to Consumer Reports’ findings, National Fisheries Institute, a trade association that represents canned tuna manufacturers, said that the mercury levels were well below the limit the FDA allows in canned tuna, and that these products are safe to consume.

If you’re concerned about limiting the amount of mercury you consume — if you’ve eaten no other fish during the week, Consumer Reports says up to 12 ounces a week of Bumble Bee Chunk Light, Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light, Safe Catch Wild Elite, and StarKist Chunk Light tunas are the safer choices among the products Consumer Reports tested.

There are other types of seafood that are nutritious and have naturally lower levels of mercury including oysters, salmon, and sardines.