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Canning TunaCanning Tuna

January 5, 2006

3 Min Read
Canning Tuna

On March 1, 2005, our daughter, Meredith, and her husband, Vito, presented Barbara and me with our first grandchild. Her name is Morgan and, of course, she is beautiful.

Along with the joy and happiness a new child brings come natural concerns for his or her health, nutrition, growth, and development, which is why I have taken great interest in reading the labels on Morgans food containers. All in all, I have been pleased and impressed with the ingredient lists both for content and completeness of information. From what I can see, our industry is doing an excellent job with food for infants.

It was this new interest that riveted my attention to a recent series of articles appearing in the Chicago Tribune focusing on the long-standing concern for mercury levels in seafood.

One segment of the papers series dealt with canned-tuna products and the disparity in mercury levels, particularly in canned tuna labeled light tuna. The governments mercury warning recommends that young children and pregnant women eat canned light tuna instead of many other fish because it is made with skipjack tuna, a species with mercury levels of less than 0.12 parts per million (ppm), according to industry estimates. Unfortunately, according to the Tribune article, approximately 8% (90 million cans) of product sold as canned light tuna are produced using yellowfin tuna, a species with estimated mercury levels as high as 0.35 ppm. Since there is currently no way for consumers to tell the difference between canned light tuna produced using skipjack tuna and those containing yellow-fin tuna, the food industry and the government are potentially putting specific groups such as young children and pregnant women at risk of unknowingly consuming canned tuna with dangerously high levels of mercury.

It didnt take long for the tuna industry and its supporters to respond. The U.S. Tuna Foundation issued a press release citing research from both Rutgers University and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that directly contradict the Tribune articles conclusions. The Tuna Foundations executive director, David Burney, states, From the standpoint of public health, the real risk for the public is not getting enough canned tuna in your diet. He invites everyone to visit the Foundations website, www.tunafacts.com, to learn more on this subject.

Also, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) placed full-page ads in both the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times with the headline, Hooked on Mercury Hype? The ad refers readers to www.fishscam.com, a new website that tackles the politics of fish fears. CCFs director of research, David Martosko, concludes, Americans need to be reminded that the health benefits of eating fish are very real, while the risks are imaginary.

So, who are we to believe?

After reading the Tribune articles, examining the industry responses and visiting the websites, my personal inclination is to come down on the industrys side ... no surprise there... But, now that my granddaughter has made the scene as a member of the high risk group, I am going to keep an open mind and a close eye on how this debate progresses.

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