Canned white tuna served in schools has higher than expected levels of mercury, according to a study released yesterday. Our previous research found similar concerns for canned tuna purchased in grocery stores.
Some children may be at greater risk from mercury in tuna than previously thought, according to the report. The analysis was prepared by the Mercury Policy Project, a research effort co-sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and eight other consumer and environmental groups. Independent studies indicate that mercury causes adverse effects at much lower levels of exposure than previously indicated.
The team of researchers tested the mercury content of 59 samples, representing eight brands of tuna, sold to schools in 11 states. Mercury levels in both white (albacore) and light tuna were highly variable from sample to sample, according to the report. While mercury levels were similar to what has been reported for canned tuna sold in supermarkets, the average mercury level in 11 samples of white tuna served in schools was much higher than the Food and Drug Administration's reported average, according to the report.
Test results also found that the 48 samples of light tuna averaged slightly lower mercury levels than the FDA's reported average.
"Kids who eat tuna frequently can easily get very high mercury doses," said Ned Groth, Ph.D., an environmental health scientist who prepared the report. "Some of the larger doses are clearly far too high to be acceptable."
Based on the findings, the researchers advise schools and parents not to serve any white tuna to kids and to limit consumption of light tuna to twice a month for most kids and only once a month for children under 55 pounds.
Bottom line: Only a small fraction of children probably eat enough tuna to be at risk, according to the report. But parents should monitor their children's canned tuna consumption at home and at school and offer them other seafood choices, such as shrimp and salmon, which are just as nutritious as tuna but contain far less mercury.