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FDA to Probe Claims High-Mercury Tuna Being Canned as 'Light Tuna'

Jan 2, 2006 |

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it intends to investigate claims that canned tuna fish being marketed in the United States contains species believed to have an unhealthy amount of mercury.

David Acheson, the FDA's chief medical officer, told the Chicago Tribune that the FDA would investigate reports that yellowfin tuna is being included in some cans of "light tuna" thereby creating the possibility that those cans contain unsafe levels of mercury.

Currently, the FDA recommendation is that consumers stick to varieties of canned tuna that are categorized as “light” or primarily skipjack tuna as opposed to “white” or albacore tuna. Skipjack is a small species of tuna that is less apt to contain high levels of the toxic heavy metal than larger species.

According to three articles the Tribune published in December, yellowfin tuna, recognized by the government as a high-mercury fish, is being included in as many as 180 million cans of what is labeled as “light tuna” per year.

Although the tuna industry has denied the claims made in the Tribune articles by stating the yellowfin matter was a “non-issue” and that the levels of mercury in its products do not pose a health risk to consumers, David Burney, the executive director of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, vowed cooperation with the FDA investigation.

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