Mercury levels in canned tuna raise concern

Canned tuna is America's favorite fish. But, it's also been the most common source of mercury in our diets. And new tests by the Consumer Reports Organization suggest there's still cause for concern.

Jodi Seubert is expecting her third child. She isn't eating tuna because she's concerned about possible mercury contamination.

"Things you put in your body will, you know, affect the growth and development of your baby's brain, of their bones, their whole body system. So I guess you think about that for your younger kids too," she said.

"Some studies have linked even low-level mercury exposure in pregnant women and young children to subtle impairments in hearing, hand-eye coordination and learning ability," Dr. John Santa from Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports tested albacore and light tuna at an outside lab -- 42 samples in all.

"Every sample of tuna we tested had measurable levels of mercury. The tests confirm that for some people, such as pregnant women and children, they still need to limit the amount of tuna they eat," Kim Kleman from Consumer Reports said. "With albacore tuna, if a pregnant woman ate one serving of any of the samples we tested, she would exceed the daily mercury intake that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe."

With about half the light tuna samples, eating this amount, about two servings, would exceed the government limit.

"Our food safety experts recommend that pregnant women, as a precaution, should avoid canned tuna altogether," Kleman said.

Doctors consulting for Consumer Reports also recommend that children under 45 pounds shouldn't eat more than one and a half ounces of albacore tuna a week -- or about four ounces of light tuna. They recommend seafood that's consistently low in mercury including clams, Alaskan salmon and shrimp.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2010. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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