Food Safety

Published on December 8th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe


Mercury in Canned Tuna

A child stacking tuna cans on the kitchen floor

A recent study from Consumer Reports found measurable amounts of mercury in the canned tuna that it tested.

While “measurable amounts” is not the same as “dangerous amounts,” with toxins like mercury that build up in the body, you have to look at the amount of tuna you’re consuming over time. They’re recommending that children and women of childbearing age limit or cut out consumption of canned white tuna. Canned light tuna contained a bit less of the heavy metal.

According to Civil Eats:

  • Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million (ppm). The FDA can take legal action to pull products containing 1 ppm or more from the market. (It never has, according to an FDA spokesman.)
  • Samples of white tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 ppm of mercury and averaged 0.427 ppm. By eating 2.5 ounces (about half a can) of any of the tested samples, a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that EPA considers safe.
  • Samples of light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 ppm and averaged 0.071 ppm. At that average, a woman of childbearing age eating 2.5 ounces would get less than the EPA’s limit, but for about half the tested samples, eating 5 ounces (about one can) would exceed the limit.

If you’re going to eat seafood, there are fish that contain less mercury, though many fish become contaminated due to living in contaminated waters. According to the EPA, “nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury.”

Between mercury contamination and the questionable safety of seafood coming out the Gulf due to the BP oil spill, maybe avoiding seafood all together is your best bet. What do you guys think?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by saaby

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

8 Responses to Mercury in Canned Tuna

  1. Overtime, these moderate amounts of tuna will build up to a dangerous level that can damage our health.

  2. Dinneen says:

    Thank you for reporting on this new data! I think that it’s best to avoid eating shellfish and bottom feeders. I, personally, do not eat fish anymore at all. However, the media blitz about the dangers of mercury in fish is much louder and more noticeable than the media blitz about antibiotics, growth hormones and other drugs which are prevalent and extremely toxic in our nation’s meat and dairy supply. But those groups have much stronger political power than the fish industry.
    In all I don’t think fish is any less dangerous than meat or dairy, I just think we hear about it more!

    • That’s an interesting point, and I agree. We’ve touched on the problems with antibiotics and hormones in most meat and dairy in this space, but we could always be doing more to raise awareness.

      While mercury is dangerous for folks who eat contaminated seafood, the antibiotics that most livestock operations use strikes me as far worse. Whether you eat meat or not, that’s got potential to impact your health as it helps bacteria achieve resistance to antibiotics.

  3. Why is the mercury in tuna considered such a health risk, while the mercury contained in vaccinations is not?

    While tuna must pass through the digestive process, vaccinations do not. To add to the danger, vaccinations routinely contain a variety of other neurotoxins, such as aluminum, formaldehyde and ethylene glycol. Is the mercury contained in vaccines considered safe because The Doctor says it is? This is part and parcel of the Cult of Medicine.

    • Does mercury break down during the digestive process? I can’t tell if you’re saying that it’s safer to eat mercury-contaminated seafood than it is to get a vaccine.

  4. AKLodgeLady says:

    We’ve eliminated tuna from our diet altogether. We are commercial fishermen in Alaska, and therefor have access to some of the best fish available on the planet (in my humble opinion)–WILD salmon!! Because mercury is a heavy metal, it is found more heavily in bottom dwelling fish. There is less mercury in the relatively clean, cold water of the northern climes, and salmon are mid-water fish, so they ingest very little of what small amounts that exist in their environment.
    Do NOT confuse WILD Alaskan salmon with “Atlantic” salmon, which is a mis-leading marketing CODE for FARMED salmon. Farmed salmon is the equivalent of feedlot cattle/poultry–loaded with hormones to make them grow faster, antibiiotics to keep them from getting sick as they ingest the feces of the fish swimming above them in the net cages, and dye in their feed so that the meat will be orange instead of GRAY!!
    We eat wild salmon for the Omega 3’s & protein & flavor! Why eat something as boring & dangerous, as tuna?

  5. Pingback: Tips for Choosing Seafood Wisely – Eat Drink Better

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