Many kids have a hard time with fish. They don’t like the taste, the smell, or the texture. But there is one exception – canned tuna. Most children enjoy tuna sandwiches and salads. But there is a problem.
What you need to know:
Tuna is a healthy cheap source of nutrients for adults and children alike. It is a good protein source and has good levels of Omega 3. But it also has a serious downside. Tuna is a big fish. Its body retains various pollutants it picks up in the ocean. The most dangerous one is methyl mercury.
Excess consumption of methyl mercury can lead to mercury poisoning, a serious disease that can cause permanent brain damage along with issues in other organs. Pregnant women and small children are most susceptible.
The thresholds for safe consumption has been set by the EPA in the past, but some groups are concerned that even lower levels of exposure may be problematic. Consumer Reports urged the FDA to add warning labels to canned tuna, but was met with a nay. Recently, CSPI explored tuna in school lunches.
It turns out that canned tuna is by far the largest single source of mercury in the US diet. It accounts for nearly one-third of our total exposure. We need to be careful with our tuna consumption.
What to do at the supermarket:
Choose light tuna (Skipjack, Bluefin, Yellowfin, Ahi) , not white tuna (Albacore, Longfin). Light tuna has just one third the amount of mercury as white tuna. Always prefer tuna packed in water, not oil.
For kids under the age of 8, limit tuna consumption to once a month. For older children – twice a month is fine.
Try to explore other fish types – sardines are a wonderful source of nutrients and because they are so small, they are not contaminated.