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Tuna Industry Confirms FDA Findings on Safety of Canned Tuna

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Tuna Foundation today called the continuing series of reports in the Chicago Tribune irresponsible journalism designed to alarm the public about a healthy and popular food when all government studies in the U.S. and abroad confirm that canned tuna is a safe and nutritious food product.

Responding to the sixth article in an ongoing series by the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) challenged how the newspaper interpreted the findings of new testing data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about mercury levels in commercially sold fish. Although the testing data clearly show that the mercury levels in canned tuna products are well within the safe limits established by the FDA, the Tribune article attempts to extrapolate a different conclusion by selectively using only a small data sample.

According to FDA's latest testing data for mercury levels in commercially sold fish and shellfish, the average amount of mercury in light canned tuna remains at 0.12 parts per million (ppm), which is eight times lower than the very conservative 1.00-ppm limit for commercial fish set by FDA. As a result, FDA has determined that canned light tuna is a low mercury fish that is safe for all Americans.

"It's time to end the madness about mercury levels in canned tuna," said Dave Burney, USTF's Executive Director. "No one is at risk from the minute amounts of mercury in canned tuna. This is the conclusion of the FDA and the public health community."

The U.S. Tuna Foundation also emphasized that no government study has ever found unsafe levels of mercury in anyone who ate canned tuna. This includes two large studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a recent study by the National Institute for Minamata Disease in Japan, where people eat an average of 145.7 pounds of fish a year, compared to only 16.6 pounds for the average American. According to this study, 72 percent of all Japanese women have significantly higher concentrations of mercury in their systems than U.S. women but without any evidence of health effects for themselves or their children.

As additional evidence, USTF pointed to the findings of a major study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which confirms that the health benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh any risk due to trace amounts of mercury in fish. Published in the November 2005 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the new study concludes that for women of childbearing age, cognitive benefits can be achieved with virtually no negative impact on the developing child if women of childbearing age eat two servings a week of fish that are low in mercury. The Harvard researchers further reveal that if Americans reduce their fish consumption out of confusion about mercury, there will be serious public health consequences, notably higher death rates from heart disease and stroke.

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