October 3, 2012 -- Tuna, like other ocean fish, is a nutrition
powerhouse. A single serving packs lean protein and omega-3s, both
essential for normal development, into less than 150 calories. And as
an added bonus, tuna is convenient, widely available, and affordable.
Is there really a trend toward tiny tuna lovers and, if so, does this
warrant concern or accolades?
The Mercury Policy Project report is not a peer-reviewed study or review of studies, so its claims require a closer look.
"Canned tuna is the largest source of methylmercury in the US diet,
contributing 32 percent of the total, and is a major source of mercury
A closer look: For this claim to be meaningful, the amount of
mercury in kids' diets would need to be concerning. Or at least close
to concerning. Or at least measurable. The latest scientific data
shows that, among children, the "average blood mercury levels for
2005-2008 were not reported because the proportion of results below the
limit of detection was too high to provide a valid result." So, not
only is the level of mercury in kids' diets not problematic, it's not
"Canned tuna is served in many school lunch programs."
A closer look: The list of United States Department of Agriculture foods available to schools
includes over 40 beef, chicken, pork, and turkey options, but only two
kinds of fish, catfish and Alaskan pollock. Foods on this list account
for about 15-20 percent of foods served with school lunch. Among the
remainder of offerings, tuna is not a very common option, according to
the School Nutrition Association. Their 2012 Back to School Trends Report asked about the most popular lunch and breakfast choices in schools and tuna was not on the list.
So what is the entire Mercury Policy Project report about too much tuna in school lunches based on? The lead author, Ned Groth, was interviewed by Food Chemical News, which reported:
"Additionally, there are some questions to be asked about the report.
Groth admits his organization didn't conduct a survey to find out how
commonly tuna is served in schools, adding that he's heard 'anecdotal'
references to the frequency of tuna served in lunches of a friend's
grandson in New Jersey."
Claim #3: "Children should not eat albacore tuna."
A closer look: Essentially all seafood contains traces of mercury
and has since the beginning of time. Though Mercury Policy Project's
report is called "Tuna Surprise," the average mercury levels found were
expected. Chunk light tuna, light skipjack tuna, and albacore tuna all
contained average mercury levels at least 40 percent lower than the Food and Drug Administration level of concern of 1.0 parts per million;
0.125, 0.058 and 0.560 parts per million, respectively. Based on this
isolated component of tuna alone, it is safe. However, tuna is more
than a mercury delivery vehicle.
There was little to no consideration in the report for the other
999,999.44 or more parts per million of the fish - lean protein,
omega-3s, selenium, etc. Of the three types of tuna looked at, albacore
tuna is the richest source of omega-3s. Stripping it from kids' diets means stripping out those brain-building healthful fats too.
The bottom line: There is nothing to suggest kids are eating too much tuna or fish of any kind, and in fact the science
shows they aren't eating enough. While we know the average level of
mercury in kids' diets is not detectable, 90 percent of children do not
meet the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggested intake for
fish-based omega-3s. The Mercury Policy Project report not only solves a
problem that doesn't exist; by scaring people away from a relatively
popular type of fish, tuna, this report may unfortunately contribute to
the real risk, seafood- and omega-3-deficient diets.
Read the full story on Medical News Today