Kids Tuna Surprise

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Tuna it turns out is still filled with toxic mercury.  A recent article focused on studies that underscore health risks for children consuming the mercury-tainted tuna  fish. Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist writes that “Based on two recent reports, Adam Finkel, a University of Pennsylvania professor who is also a national expert on human health-risk assessment, fears many of the nation’s kids are eating too much tuna – aided and abetted by being offered it at school.

Tuna has a lot going for it. It’s popular and cheap, loaded with protein and low in fat. And federal health guidelines are simple and direct: We should eat more seafood. But tuna also is the biggest source of mercury in the American diet.

Mercury is emitted by coal-fired power plants and other industries. It gets into waterways, then into fish, accumulating as it moves up the food chain to top predators such as tuna. Mercury can harm memory, intelligence, and hand-eye coordination, so federal guidelines advise limited consumption for young children and women who are or may become pregnant. Note: Albacore tuna has more mercury than light tuna.

But the guideline is broad. And a report issued in September by the Mercury Policy Project, a Vermont nonprofit, found that mercury levels in institutional-size cans of tuna, the kind used in schools, vary widely.

The report, “Tuna Surprise,” tested 59 samples of institutional tuna from 11 states. The author, environmental health expert Edward Groth, found that children eating the same amount of tuna from different sources could get mercury doses that vary by tenfold. Tuna from Latin America has more mercury than tuna from the United States and Asia…..Finkel considers tuna “a needless risk” and says the smaller the child, the less tuna he or she should eat. Groth’s report recommends that children weighing less than 55 pounds eat tuna no more than once a month.

Even in schools where tuna is served sparingly, the problem is the unusual kid who loves it and eats it at every opportunity, Groth and Finkel say. Adam Finkel, a Penn expert on human health-risk assessment, recommends parents ask their school district these questions:

How often is tuna served? Worst is if it’s on a salad bar every day, so a kid who loves it can load up, Finkel says.

What kind is it? Chunk light has less mercury than albacore.

Where is it from? The “Tuna Surprise” report found that tuna from Latin America has more mercury than tuna from the United States and Asia.

The FDA’s information page on mercury and fish: http://alturl.com/fbo2r

The EPA’s information page: http://alturl.com/an7wy

“Tuna Surprise” Report: http://alturl.com/m2emc


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