YONKERS, N.Y. — Based on mercury levels found in 42 random samples of tuna purchased online and in New York-area stores, Consumer Reports magazine suggests in its January 2011 issue that pregnant women should completely avoid eating tuna as a precaution, and that younger women and children should curb how much they eat.
Every sample tested contained measurable levels of mercury. Levels were highest in white tuna, averaging 0.427 parts per million. “By eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples [of white tuna] a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] considers safe,” the report states.
On average, light tuna samples contained significantly less mercury, but the report urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers about occasional spikes in mercury levels in canned light tuna, regardless. Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, has been urging the FDA to make such a move since 2006.
The magazine's reports on mercury in seafood have a history of being picked up and repeated by consumer health magazines, blogs and daytime talk shows, although the extent of the impact that these reports have on seafood sales is unclear.
The subject is the focus on an ongoing debate. In 2009, the FDA issued a draft report noting that any dangers that mercury poses to unborn babies is mostly offset by the importance of omega-3 fatty acids to fetal development.