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Is Canned Tuna Safe?

A. When Consumer Reports found recently that 6% of the canned light tuna samples it analyzed had as much mercury as the average can of albacore, some people were concerned. What many didn’t take into account was that most of the light tuna tested had one-third of the mercury content of the average can of albacore, and also that the dose of mercury in most fish is too small to harm anyone but a young child or a fetus.

Join the conversation: Do You Eat Canned Tuna?

In 2004, the FDA recommended that young children and women of childbearing age eat up to 12 ounces of lower-mercury fish a week (including canned light tuna, shrimp and scallops), limit their consumption of higher-mercury albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week and totally avoid high-mercury shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish. The intent was to help them maximize intake of omega-3 fatty acids (which are critical to a baby’s brain development) and minimize exposure to mercury (which may thwart healthy growth of the nervous system).

Emily Oken, M.D., M.P.H., has studied both sides of this issue. Her 2005 study in Environmental Health Perspectives linked lower infant cognition with both higher levels of mercury and a lower intake of fish during pregnancy. Oken emphasizes that if a pregnant woman chooses to avoid tuna, she should replace it with other sources of omega-3 fats (salmon, sardines, anchovies, DHA-fortified eggs). Oken, who currently is breastfeeding a seven-month-old, continues to eat light tuna—and to feed it to her 2 1/2-year-old.

Our bottom Line: There’s no scientific evidence that mercury in the fish we eat causes any adverse effects in adults. In fact, not eating fish is a far bigger gamble: “Fish protects against stroke and heart disease—two really big killers,” says Josh Cohen, Ph.D., instructor at The Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies at Tufts New England Medical Center.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

"Not eating fish is a far bigger gamble" sounds like a food-industry backed FDA comment to me.

Anonymous

04/18/2010 - 11:08pm

Anything in moderation is good.

Anonymous

04/29/2010 - 12:20am

"Anything in moderation is good." Umm, not everything. You wouldn't want to eat Twinkies or pork rinds "in moderation" would you?

Anonymous

12/05/2010 - 10:37am

What's wrong with Twinkies or pork rinds in "moderation"? Doing something "in moderation" means not doing it excessively. What's an "excessive" amount of Twinkies? 10 a day? One a week? One a month? Eat less than the "excessive" amount and you'll be fine.

Anonymous

03/11/2012 - 9:14pm

I would like to know why I can't find can Tuna canned in Canada. Every can Tuna I've bought in my local grocery store comes from Thailand.

Anonymous

04/13/2012 - 4:30pm

PORK RIND HAS FAT RENDERED, NO?

Anonymous

06/03/2012 - 10:07am

Canned tuna in tomato sauce, yummmmm

Anonymous

06/17/2012 - 7:51pm

Why would I risk eating Tuna that absorbs harmfull mercury when I can get all the Omega 3 fatty oils that I need, carefully processed, uncomtaminated from a simple GNC or Whole Foods Fish Oil supplement.

Anonymous

07/24/2012 - 6:29pm

I will eat canned tuna till the day i die! it is good for you.

Anonymous

08/20/2012 - 7:07pm

Someone told me that eating any kind of canned food is risky due to lead found in the lid, is it true?

Anonymous

09/14/2012 - 11:20am

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