Kids warned not to consume too much tuna

September 25, 2012|By Meredith Cohn

Kids may be getting too much mercury from their school lunches, specifically their tuna sandwiches, according to a new study from consumer, health and environmental groups.

The study found that the adverse effects from popular school lunch staple, canned tuna, occurs at lower levels than previously thought and kids should not eat a whole lot of the albacore kind. Parents should stick with light tuna only twice a month and once a month for kids under 55 pounds, which has a third of the mercury, according to the groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Physicians for Social Responsibility, Safe Minds.

The groups said canned tuna is by far the largest source of methylmercury in the American diet and accounts for almost a third of people’s total exposure. It largely comes from pollution from coal-burning power plants, the groups said. Still, they said they don’t want kids to stop eating the fish, just the kind the amount of tuna. Salmon and shrimp are even better alternatives, they said.

“Most children are already consuming only modest amounts of tuna and are not at significant risk,” Michael Bender, director of the study called the Mercury Policy Project, said in a statement. “So the focus really needs to be on kids who eat tuna often, to limit their mercury exposure by offering them lower-mercury seafood or other nutritious alternatives.”

For the study, the groups tested 59 samples, and eight brands of tuna, sold to schools in 11 states. The found the mercury levels were about the same as grocery tuna, with albacore having higher amounts of the toxic compound but both types being variable.

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