Tuna has been on the limit list for pregnant women for quite awhile. The EPA/FDA recommendations since 2004 have been to eat no more than 12 oz. of canned tuna per week. But hey, that’s plenty. Within those guidelines, pregnant women could be eating a nice sized tuna sandwich at least every other day. (The EPA recommended that only 6 of those 12 ounces should be white or albacore tuna, which is higher in mercury than light tuna).
But pregnant women may be starting to kiss those tuna melts goodbye, if they’re heeding the new warning from Consumer Reports. After a study of canned tuna in the New York City area, the testers found that at least half the cans of light tuna — and all the cans of white tuna— contained enough mercury to exceed the daily mercury intake considered safe by the FDA. The big problem, according to Consumer Reports, isn’t just with the average can of fish. It’s with the spike in mercury content that occurs in the occasional can. Averages, after all, are made of a mix of highs, lows and in-betweens. So what happens when you get one of the cans on the high end of the spectrum?
In order to prevent the (unknown) risk of consuming a larger quantity of mercury, the magazine recommends that pregnant women take tuna fish off the menu entirely.
“Every sample that Consumer Reports tested had measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million (ppm). Samples of white tuna ranged from 0.217 ppm to 0.774 ppm and averaged 0.427 ppm — enough that by eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples, a woman would exceed the daily mercury intake considered safe by the EPA.”
The magazine also recommended that small children avoid white tuna and limit light tuna intake much more drastically than the EPA/FDA had originally recommended. The EPA/FDA recommendations have been criticized for being too soft and supportive of fisheries at the expense of public health. But then, studies have shown that the Omega 3 oils found in fish are of such substantial benefit to fetal brain development that cutting down on fish consumption could present a risk in itself.
There are other reasons to cut down on tuna. Our appetite for the mild-flavored, meaty fish has made it an endangered species.
Tilapia salad sandwich, anyone?
For more on the new tuna warnings, see here.