Local News

Tuna Makes Big Splash At Grocery Stores, But Is It Safe?

Posted May 31, 2001

— Tuna salad is a favorite in many households, but with some new choices of tuna at the store, you would have to try a lot of brands to find the one that tastes best.Consumer Reportsjust tested loads of tuna fish to find the tastiest.

To rate the available brands,Consumer Reportsopened thousands of cans and dozens of pouches of white and light tuna. The pouches were vacuum sealed and had almost no liquid to drain. The newest kits came with ready-made tuna salad, but testers said the taste was disappointing.

According toConsumer Reports, you are better off making your own tuna salad, especially since testers found lots of tunas can give you a good start. They checked a dozen brands of albacore tuna, which tends to have a mild flavor. An less common light tuna called tongol as well as several other solid light tunas received high marks.

"Those from the big three tuna companies -- Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea's Genova Tonno Label were all very good," says tester Linda Greene.

Consumer Reportsfound tastier tunas tended to be the ones that cost more, but it is worth noting that tuna is an item that frequently goes on sale, so keep an eye out for the sales and stock up! But some people do need to be cautious about the amount of tuna they eat.

By now, most people have heard the warnings about the toxic chemical mercury that is found in some kinds of fresh fish. Doctors have even warned pregnant women about avoiding some types of fish such as tuna because they have high levels of mercury.

Studies suggest that even low levels of mercury can harm a developing brain. To find out whether canned tuna contains mercury, and if so how much,Consumer Reportstested dozens of cans and pouches. Based on guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency, their results show cause for concern.

"Considering the large amount of canned tuna that's eaten, we found levels of mercury high enough to pose a risk to one vulnerable group," says Dr. Marvin Lipman.

Consumer Reportsfound the group that is the most vulnerable includes fetuses, infants who are being breast-fed and children up to 45 pounds. Testers also found the amount of mercury varied, depending on the tuna type -- whether it was white tuna or light.

"The levels of mercury in the white tuna were almost twice as high as the light tuna. That may be because the light tuna is smaller and ingested less mercury," Greene says.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should not have any more than one six-ounce can of white tuna a week or two cans of light tuna, and young children should eat even less tuna -- no more than one sandwich a week. Bear in mind, as kids grow, they can safely eat more tuna. Consumer Reportsemphasizes that for those less affected by mercury, tuna is an excellent source of protein. It is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

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