Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mercury in Seafood

One of the biggest concerns I am confronted with by seafood consumers is the mercury content of seafood. There seems to be mass confusion and distortion of facts surrounding this issue.

This all goes back to a report issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which was issued in March of 2004 and can be found here:

This was an article of Advice issued for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children. In other words, if you don't fit any of these categories, you really have nothing to worry about.

Here is the gist of the report taken directly from the above link.


"By following these 3 recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.


Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.


Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.


Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week.

Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions. "

End of direct quote.

Strangely, I am often asked about which salmon is high in mercury, when the report clearly states it is a low mercury (read recommended) fish. I guess just the fact it was mentioned in the report salmon, shrimp, and catfish are guilty by association.

If you fall under one of the categories listed in this report, basically a woman of child bearing years or nursing mother, a young child, or if you have a medical condition in which you doctor has advised avoidance of methylmercury (the type of mercury found in seafood), then by all means be selective in the type of seafood you consume.

If you are one of us in the teaming masses who don't fit into these categories, eat two or three servings of your favorite seafood a week without fearing for your life. In fact it will add years and quality to your life.

Just make sure you have a variety, not to just break up the monotony, but different items of seafood have different nutrients and will give you a better balanced diet.

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