Mercury in tuna: Is canned tuna safe? (2024)

The tuna sandwich is a lunchbox staple. But several species of tuna — like other large ocean fish — contain higher-than-average amounts of mercury, a highly toxic metal that can cause severe health effects.

This is of particular concern for young children, since their nervous system, brain, heart, kidneys and lungs are all susceptible to the harmful effects of mercury.

Mercury in tuna: Is canned tuna safe? (1)

Where does mercury come from?

Mercury comes from both natural sources — like volcanoes — as well as man-made sources like air pollution from power plants and other industrial sources that burn fossil fuels. Once it enters the atmosphere, mercury rains down on rivers, lakes and oceans, where it then enters the food web.

How much canned tuna is OK?

Fortunately, parents and kids need not give up tuna altogether. By paying attention, parents can safely include tuna sandwiches in their kids' lunch boxes, in moderation.

There are two main kinds of canned tuna: chunk light and solid or chunk white (albacore). Mercury levels in canned white tuna, which is exclusively albacore, are almost three times higher than those found in smaller skipjack tuna commonly used in canned light tuna products.

These recommendations are based on EPA guidance and estimates of mercury in the most popular canned tunas:

  • Canned white, or albacore (0.32 parts per million of mercury). Children under six can eat up to one 3-ounce portion a month; children from 6-12, two 4.5-ounce portions a month. Adults, including pregnant women, can safely eat this kind of tuna up to three times a month (women, 6-ounce portions; men, 8-ounce portions).
  • Canned light, the safer choice (0.12 parts per million of mercury). Children under six can eat up to three 3-ounce portions per month. Older children and adults can safely eat it once a week. But look out for "gourmet" or "tonno" labels. They are made with bigger yellowfin tuna and can contain mercury levels comparable to canned white.
  • A better alternative is canned salmon (mostly sockeye or pink from Alaska), which is low in contaminants and high in heart-healthy omega-3s. It's also sustainably caught in Alaska and similarly priced, making it a great choice all around.

Keep an eye on lunch served at school

A study by the Mercury Policy Project found a wide range of mercury levels in both light and white tuna from government-sponsored school lunch programs. Some of the canned albacore/white tuna tested had almost four times the average level of mercury reported by the Food and Drug Administration.

Seafood Selector: Which fish are healthy to eat?

Mercury in tuna: Is canned tuna safe? (2024)


Mercury in tuna: Is canned tuna safe? ›

Canned white, or albacore (0.32 parts per million of mercury). Children under six can eat up to one 3-ounce portion a month; children from 6-12, two 4.5-ounce portions a month. Adults, including pregnant women, can safely eat this kind of tuna up to three times a month (women, 6-ounce portions; men, 8-ounce portions).

Is canned tuna safe to eat mercury? ›

Canned light tuna is low in mercury and is considered one of the best choices for individuals that need to limit their exposure to mercury. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding can consume 2–3 servings of canned light tuna per week and children can consume 2 servings per week.

How often is it safe to eat canned tuna? ›

Canned light tuna is in the “Best Choices” category and it is fine to eat 2 to 3 servings per week. We recommend that you eat a variety of fish. You may wish to try other affordable fish in the “Best Choices” category such as canned salmon or sardines, frozen fish, or fresh fish that are at a reduced price. 3.

What is the safest canned tuna to eat? ›

Safe Catch Elite Tuna, simply the lowest mercury tuna of any brand.

What canned tuna is lowest in mercury? ›

If you're concerned about limiting the amount of mercury you consume, and if you've eaten no other fish during the week, Consumer Reports says up to 12 ounces a week of Bumble Bee Chunk Light, Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light, Safe Catch Wild Elite, and StarKist Chunk Light tunas are the safer choices among the products ...

What is the safest canned fish to eat? ›

The most healthful choices on this list that are available canned include anchovies, Atlantic mackerel, clams, crab, oysters, sardines, shrimp, and trout. Canned seafood brands offer varying levels of testing to ensure lower mercury levels.

How to know if canned tuna is bad? ›

A good rule of thumb for canned seafood, such as canned salmon or canned tuna, is that it can be safely kept in a cool dark pantry for 5 years. But really, as long as the seal remains unbroken, a tin can last nearly indefinitely.

Is tuna in water or oil better? ›

Tuna salad calories and fat are higher, and oil-packed tuna contains more fat than water-packed, but a 1 oz serving of chunk light tuna in oil contains only 2.3 grams of total fat, while the same serving of chunk light tuna in water contains less than a gram.

What is a safer alternative to canned tuna? ›

Mackerel is a guilt-free substitute for tuna. This mild-tasting, meaty fish is lower in mercury and sustainably sourced. Mackerel's texture and delicate flavor make it as versatile as tuna.

Is StarKist canned tuna safe? ›

We follow a robust testing policy in all of our plants and can assure you that StarKist Tuna is safe to eat and falls well below FDA's stringent requirements. In general, Americans don't eat enough seafood. Most of us eat 1 serving or less a week, and women who are pregnant eat even less.

How to get mercury out of your body? ›

Treatment focuses on removing mercury from your body and could include receiving:
  1. Chelation therapy (removing metals from your body) via fluid through an IV.
  2. Oxygen through a face mask.
  3. Medicine to treat symptoms.
  4. Dialysis.
  5. Surgery to remove mercury.
Jul 7, 2022

Is shrimp high 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.

Is StarKist tuna high in mercury? ›

Tuna is known to contain higher levels of mercury than many other types of fish. According to the FDA, StarKist tuna is safe to eat in moderation. The FDA recommends that people limit their consumption of canned tuna to no more than two to three servings per week. This is to reduce their exposure to mercury.

What are the symptoms of mercury poisoning from tuna fish? ›

Symptoms of mercury poisoning
  • tremors.
  • headaches.
  • difficulty sleeping.
  • impaired sensations.
  • muscle weakness and twitching.
  • emotional changes (mood swings, irritability, nervousness)
  • kidney damage.
  • breathing difficulties.
Nov 21, 2023

Does mercury leave the body? ›

When you eat fish containing mercury, you can also take in the mercury. The metal builds up in your bloodstream over time. It slowly leaves the body through urine, stool, and breast milk. For most people, eating a small amount of fish high in mercury isn't a health concern.

Is safe catch tuna really safe? ›

Mercury Tested

We hand select and test every, single, tuna, to a mercury limit (10x) lower than the FDA action limit. No other brand in the world does this. That is why Safe Catch Elite and Ahi, Wild Yellowfin are the official tuna of the American Pregnancy Association.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated:

Views: 6626

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.