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The August 1 edition of the Wall Street Journal has a front page story on Mercury and Tuna. I have been somewhat nonchalant about mercury and fish - not because I don't care, but because the issue is confusing. One article says eat more fish, the next article says don't eat farm raised fish, and the next article says wild fish contains mercury. It would seem that nothing I could do would be right.
But when a nutritional issue makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal, I'm forced to take notice.
The article starts with the story of a 10-year old boy who got mercury poisoning from Albacore tuna. (If you buy the more expensive Albacore tuna - STOP! Light tuna has considerably less mercury contamination.) Fortunately a neurologist figured out what was causing the problem, and the boy has recovered.
The real point of the article is that the government is having a hard time setting a standard for how much mercury is ok. There is a conflict between FDA and EPA scientists. Food processors are lobbying both agencies because "canned tuna is one of the top grossing supermarket items." The American Medical Association wants mandatory warning labels wherever fish is sold. The US Tuna Foundation is concerned that a mercury scare would result in "significant segments of the population turning away from the proven health benefits of fish consumption."
In trying to set a standard, they urge pregnant women and children to avoid the four highest high mercury fish, which are swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. A compromise was reached, placing light tuna in the low-mercury group. Supporters of the compromise say that a 140-pound woman could eat 12 ounces of tuna a week and stay below the EPA's reference dose. (12 ounces is just two cans - there are weeks when I have eaten more than that and I weigh less than 140 pounds!) Opponents say that the risk of the higher mercury albacore tuna has not been adequately spelled out.
It is a long article and the politics will make you angry.
For me - I buy only light tuna and will continue to do so.
Only 1 can of tuna per week per person from now on.
We will eat more sardines and canned wild salmon when we need quick meat for a salad.
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