Warning: High Levels of Mercury Found in Tuna Sushi

suishi.bmpA city girls nightmare! Recent lab tests found very high levels of mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants. Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. This is bad news for me and for other city girls who love tuna. I am obsessed with seared tuna and tuna tartare – that’s what I would order 90% of the time if it were in the menu. The same goes for my favorite food – sushi.

The new study shows…
The New York Times purchased tuna samples from 20 stores / restaurant in Manhattan. There was so much mercury in the tuna samples from most of the restaurants, that a regular diet of 6 PIECES A WEEK would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency The places with tuna with the highest mercury content were from: Nobu Next Door, Sushi Seki, Sushi of Gari and Blue Ribbon Sushi and the food store Gourmet Garage. (Some of my favorite restaurants!).

The highest levels of mercury were found in bluefin tuna. The more expensive restaurants tend to serve bluefin tuna as it is a more expensive fish. Bluefin tuna, which is a larger fish, tends to accumulate more mercury from the fish it eats. Mercury enters the environment as an industrial pollutant. Other species of tuna, including yellow fin, tend to contain less mercury because they are smaller fish and would therefore eat less fish containing mercury.  However, it is almost impossible to tell what kind of tuna you are getting in a restaurant.

Previous warnings of mercury in canned tuna
In 2004, the FDA warned that pregnant women, women who might become pregnant and small children should limit their consumption of certain varieties of canned tuna because the mercury it contained might damage the developing nervous system. Fresh tuna was not included in the advisory. Most of the tuna sushi in the N.Y. Times samples contained far more mercury than is typically found in canned tuna. This new study is telling us we should all limit our intake of tuna.

Mercury and potential health problems
In addition to the dangers for small children and pregnant women, studies have suggested that mercury may also cause health problems for adults. The risks including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and neurological symptoms.

The new guidelines for tuna consumption
More studies need to be done before the EPA can set guidelines for eating tuna. However until that time, some experts are advising everyone to avoid bluefin tuna altogether. Other experts are recommending that we should not eat a meal of tuna with these high mercury levels more than once every three weeks. I would recommend that you choose other types of fish in a Japanese restaurant (or any restaurant for that matter).

I’ll need to follow my own advice… so far this week I’ve had an order of seared tuna, tuna tartare and 2 tuna rolls. Guess no more tuna for me for the rest of the month!

See this link for the full article by Marian Burros. The article talks details of the study, recommendations by health experts along with how the owners of the 5 restaurants with tuna with high levels of mercury will handle it.


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