Tuna Warning

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Just as I’ve espoused my favorite tuna salad, I remembered last week’s front page article in the Times about tuna sushi. Laboratory tests indicate high levels of mercury in tuna sushi sampled from various restaurants and grocers in New York City. These levels were higher than EPA standards, a cause for concern for those with a regular diet of tuna sushi. Six pieces a week, what would normally be one meal, has an excessive amount of mercury, which should be consumed no more than once every three weeks. It has been a common warning for pregnant and nursing women to limit their tuna intake, due to a baby’s developing nervous systems. Excessive amounts of mercury has been shown to contribute to cardiological and neurological problems in adults. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, was based in reality in that milliners used mercury for their hats, making them kind of crazy.

As I read about the shockingly high levels of mercury in one of the world’s more perfect foods, I was repulsed, ired, and then ultimately defeated. I felt completely helpless. Isn’t there anything that I, a conscientious, totebag-carrying environmentalist can do? Can’t I sign a petition? Boycott a certain company? Use less mercury?

Unfortunately, there isn’t mercury-free tuna, like dolphin-free tuna. Because tuna, as a big fish, eats little fish, which has smaller amounts of mercury. This all accumulates in their bodies, a hazard to being at the top of the food chain, which in turn gets passed on to us. The choices are few. Canned tuna has mercury, albacore can have as much as three times as much, making the cheaper chunk light, which comes from smaller tuna, a better choice. Cooking has no effect. We’re screwed.

Not that I’m giving up on tuna. As with all good things, it should be eaten in moderation. A rule of thumb for fats, sugar, and alcohol, but mercury?

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