Canned tuna, Is it safe to eat ?
March 5, 2007 6:49am CST
Health Canada's new guidelines on eating canned albacore tuna may not go far enough, some scientists say. Last week, the department issued the new consumption advice for women and children who eat the canned fish after a CBC investigation revealed mercury levels above the allowed limit in 13 per cent of 60 cans purchased in three Canadian cities. Now, a Canadian woman has stepped forward saying she has suffered serious medical problems as a result of eating too much albacore tuna. Maureen Hayes of Ottawa lost 60 pounds on a special diet that included eating up to four cans of albacore tuna a week for 10 years. About a year ago, she started having heart problems. "I had heart palpitations," Hayes said. "I had headaches every day, I had loss of memory, I was extremely fatigued, I had no energy, my skin was extremely dry and itchy, and then I started to develop allergies." It took one year, visits to several specialists and a magazine article about mercury before Hayes put the pieces together and had her blood tested. She discovered her blood had elevated levels of mercury. Troubling tins The new Health Canada guidelines say it is safe for pregnant women to consume nearly three cans of albacore tuna a week, slightly less than what Hayes was eating. In the U.S., the consumption guidelines range from one can a week to one can a month for pregnant women and children. Hayes' symptoms are consistent with long-term exposure to mercury, said Donna Mergler, a professor who specializes in mercury at the University of Quebec at Montreal. Mergler was one of three experts CBC asked to review Hayes' medical records. She said the federal government should extend its advisory to everyone, and put labels on cans of fish containing high levels of mercury. "I don't think the recommendations necessarily protect all the population, because as one can see, there are people that are particularly sensitive to it," Mergler said. Health Canada based its latest consumption advice for albacore tuna on a full scientific review of the latest data on toxic mercury levels in the fish, the department said in an e-mail to CBC. Concerned e-mails Hayes was one of about 70 people who e-mailed Dr. David Lean of the University of Ottawa, who supervised CBC's tuna tests. The e-mail authors were worried they'd suffered mercury poisoning after eating too much canned tuna. "I suggest they talk it over with their doctor," Hayes said. "I don't think the message is out there yet that this is a major environmental problem that really requires action at all levels." Under her doctor's care, Hayes stopped eating canned tuna altogether. Eventually, the mercury levels in her blood dropped to normal and her symptoms have disappeared. Since 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences have recommended keeping mercury levels in the blood to less than 5.0 micrograms per litre over the long term. When first tested, Hayes's blood levels were 8.8 micrograms per litre. Health Canada's guideline for mercury in blood were based on the World Health Organization's standard from 1972, which indicate increased risk at levels between 20 to 100 micrograms per litre. http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2007/03/02/tuna-labels.html
1 person likes this
• United States
5 Mar 07
Wow, I didn't know this. I live in the US and eat a lot of canned tuna - I haven't heard of any reports like this here but I don't pay a lot of attention to the news either. Maybe I should, now I'm concerned about the 10 cans of tuna I have in my cupboard right now.