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January 24, 2008

Mercury on the Mind …

BY: smahan

In the past couple of weeks, there has been an incredible amount of news concerning mercury in seafood. For folks who aren’t fish-heads, some of the news may have been easy to miss. Here’s a recap:

• On Jan. 10, 2008, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tested 10 samples of sushi from local restaurants and grocery stores. Two samples were tuna. The tuna sample from the restaurant had a mercury level of 0.94 parts per million (ppm), while the grocery store sample had 0.99 ppm.

Micro Analytical Systems, Inc. issued a press release on Jan. 18, 2008, stating that 80 percent of swordfish they tested had mercury levels of over 1 ppm. MASI also tested tuna and halibut from 19 different grocery stores and found the highest level of mercury in ahi tuna to be 1.2 ppm.

Then yesterday, the New York Times published the results of their study of mercury levels in sushi. The gist:

• The NYT went to 20 restaurants and grocery stores around town and found the highest level of mercury in tuna sushi was 1.4 ppm

Currently, this story is the New York Times’ most e-mailed story.

Also yesterday, Oceana released its extensive report on supermarket swordfish, tuna and tilapia, sushi restaurant tuna and mackerel and grocery personnel’s knowledge of the FDA’s advice about mercury in seafood. We found some pretty shocking results:

• One-third of sushi tuna samples exceeded the FDA “action level” limit of 1 ppm

• Two-thirds of swordfish samples exceeded the action level

• Eighty-seven percent of seafood counter attendants at grocery stores who were asked about the FDA’s mercury warning could not explain it or gave an incorrect explanation.

That’s a lot of results. … So what does this all mean, what happens now? Be sure to stay tuned to Oceana’s blog for follow-ups. …