High Levels Of Mercury Found In Sushi Tuna

The New York Times collected 20 tuna samples from high-end restaurants around NYC and tested them for mercury. The results were extremely troubling:

Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. The sushi was bought by The New York Times in October.

“No one should eat a meal of tuna with mercury levels like those found in the restaurant samples more than about once every three weeks,” said Dr. Michael Gochfeld, professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

Dr. Gochfeld analyzed the sushi for The Times with Dr. Joanna Burger, professor of life sciences at Rutgers University. He is a former chairman of the New Jersey Mercury Task Force and also treats patients with mercury poisoning.

The levels of mercury found the the tuna were higher than expected, and much higher than levels found in typical canned tuna. Bluefin tuna, the type of fish that was served in the majority of the restaurants, is bigger and more expensive than the type found in supermarket canned tuna.

In general, tuna sushi from food stores was much lower in mercury. These findings reinforce results in other studies showing that more expensive tuna usually contains more mercury because it is more likely to come from a larger species, which accumulates mercury from the fish it eats. Mercury enters the environment as an industrial pollutant.

In the Times survey, 10 of the 13 restaurants said at least one of the two tuna samples bought was bluefin. (It is hard for anyone but experts to tell whether a piece of tuna sushi is bluefin by looking at it.)

By contrast, other species, like yellowfin and albacore, generally have much less mercury. Several of the stores in the Times sample said the tuna in their sushi was yellowfin.

“It is very likely bluefin will be included in next year’s testing,” Dr. Bolger of the F.D.A. said. “A couple of months ago F.D.A. became aware of bluefin tuna as a species Americans are eating.”

High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi [NYT]
(Photo:Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)