Tuna was a staple of my diet throughout my studies. I would eat up to 6 cans a day during my peak, ranging from sweetcorn mayonnaise to good ol’ fashioned olive oil.
I became notorious for my consumption and fellow concerned students began to ask, “Hey guy, aren’t you worried about mercury poisoning?” I nonchalantly waved them off before slamming down another can of chili tuna.
Tuna has continued to feature regularly in my diet since then. As a result, I decided to learn more about canned food, tuna and mercury before I’m found foaming at the mouth while clutching onto a tuna sandwich.
Fish become contaminated with mercury as a consequence of improper dumping of products containing heavy metals which are then absorbed into their tissue. The effect of this is cumulative, as fish, and humans for that matter, are unable to rid this chemical from the body.
Furthermore, as fish grow and eat other mercury-laden fish, the level continues to increase. Thus larger, older carnivorous fish, such as sharks, have the highest mercury levels.
Another contributing factor of course is the location of the fish. Certain areas, such as the waters surrounding Japan have particularly high levels of this heavy metal.
“But Andrew, a fully grown tuna can be well over 600 kilograms, doesn’t that mean it’s stacked with mercury?” This is true; however, the tuna selected for canning purposes are said to be small tuna, under 1 year old.
With this in mind, it’s important to be wary of the source. Australian canned tuna poses a very low health risk, though some brands sold in Australia fish in Thai waters increasing the risk somewhat.
Albacore tuna also tends to be higher in mercury by up to three times when compared to “chunk light tuna”.
Here are some basic guidelines for a happy tuna eating experience (suggestions using “chunk light tuna”. If consuming Albacore simply divide by 3):
- In pregnant women and young children – 1 large can or 2 small cans per week is a safe bet. This is because mercury can have serious implications on a developing body.
- For an average male – 2-3 large cans (4-6 small cans) per week
- For an average female – 1-2 large cans (2-4 small cans) per week
So it appears I’m in a spot of bother! Oh Lord!
What’s your opinion on the subject? Leave a comment in the space below while I get to work on this tuna casserole!
“Am I eating chicken or tuna?”
– Jessica Simpson
By Andrew Cammarano