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Mercury in Tuna: What to Do? continued...

For the lower-mercury fish, the EPA and FDA suggest women of childbearing age and young children limit their eating to up to 12 ounces (about two average meals) a week of fish and shellfish, including up to 6 ounces of white tuna.

The lower-mercury fish include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish, according to the EPA and FDA.

According to Halloran, Consumer Reports recommends that pregnant women avoid canned tuna and choose lower-mercury seafood instead. Women of childbearing age and young children especially should limit how much canned tuna they eat, Halloran says. Consumer Reports recommends:

  • Children weighing less than 45 pounds should limit their weekly intake to 0 to 4 ounces of light tuna or 0 to 1.5 ounces of white tuna, depending on their weight.
  • Children weighing more than 45 pounds should not eat more than 4 to 12.5 ounces of light or 1.5 to 4 ounces of white tuna, depending on their weight.
  • Women of childbearing age should limit tuna to 12.5 ounces of light or 4 ounces of white a week.
  • Older women and men should limit tuna to 14.5 ounces of light or 5 ounces of white a week, but if they eat fish more often should stick to low-mercury varieties.

Eating fish is healthy, the report stresses, as it provides protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce heart attack and stroke risk and may help prevent certain cancers, cognitive decline, and some eye diseases. During pregnancy, omega-3s help in developing the fetal brain and visual system, the authors write.

Industry Views on Mercury in Tuna

In a statement, Gibbons also says: "Consumer Reports' suggestion that pregnant women limit the amount of fish they eat, outside of the FDA's four fish to avoid, is reckless and has the potential to harm public health."

He mentions the risk of omega-3 deficiency.

He points to a variety of well-respected organizations that promote regular eating of seafood as healthy choices.

Tuna is the second most popular seafood in the U.S., according to a 2009 poll by the National Marine Fisheries Services. Per person, Americans ate 2.5 pounds of canned tuna last year. Shrimp was No. 1, with 4.1 pounds eaten per person.

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