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Too Much Mercury in Canned Tuna -- Or Is There?
Date:2/12/2010

It could depend on whether you heed EPA or FDA standards, experts say

FRIDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A report last week that more than half of samples of brand-name canned tuna contained more mercury than deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised concern among tuna lovers everywhere.

Yet the same report found that only 5 percent of canned tuna samples contained mercury levels that exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) standards for safety, which are less stringent than the EPA's.

The question for consumers is: What gives? And is it OK to keep eating that tuna sandwich?

"We never say, 'Don't eat tuna,'" said lead study author Shawn Gerstenberger, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. "We are saying if you are in a high-risk group and are worried about mercury exposure, there are some easy consumer choices you can make to limit exposure."

In the study, published in the February issue of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, researchers tested more than 300 samples of canned tuna and found "white" tuna, or albacore, consistently had higher concentrations of mercury than "light" tuna.

Fish generally accumulate mercury in two ways: either by absorbing it through their skin or scales from the water itself, or by eating other organisms that contain mercury. Since albacore is a larger species that's higher up on the food chain than light tuna species, it generally contains more mercury, Gerstenberger explained.

According to the EPA and the FDA, high-risk groups, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who may become pregnant and young children, should limit their weekly tuna consumption to no more than 12 ounces (two meals) of light tuna a week, or up to 6 ounces of albacore.

While the federal agencies agree on their consumption guidelines, the FDA and the EPA d
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