Charlie the Tuna — the awkwardly loveable and slightly creepy animated fish from back in the day — and his kin are having their reputation sunk again.
A new report from the Mercury Policy Project once again sounds the alarm over high mercury levels in tuna, particularly for kids who consume large amounts.
Albacore tuna is a big “no” when it comes to kids’ diets nowadays, the report says. And light tuna should be limited to one helping once a month for kids 55 pounds and below.
Big kids get to splurge a bit and have two.
Researchers tested 59 types of tuna from 11 different states. The results were not so savory and all over the map. Mercury varied from sample to sample. Even samples from the same container weren’t on par with each other.
What’s more unfortunate is that all samples came from places that directly supply the fish to children, such as schools and companies that stock school cafeterias with food.
The only somewhat safe bet was light tuna, which consistently showed lower levels of mercury than standard albacore.
The FDA is sticking to its guns despite the findings, touting what it’s been saying for years:
“FDA and EPA recommend that women of childbearing age and children consume no more than 12 ounces a week of canned light tuna and only 6 ounces per week of canned albacore tuna, which is higher in mercury.”
This report has ruffled the tuna council’s scales, as it pretty much ignored nutritious components of tuna. Selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and lean proteins all have health benefits, according to Jennifer McGuire, dietitian with the Tuna Council of the National Fisheries Institute.
Report co-author Edward Groth said that while studies in the past have eschewed tuna for possible links to delayed mental development in children, the evidence is still not quite clear.
That’s also not to say that parents should withhold all tuna sandwiches and their mushy goodness from the kiddies. Groth said that it’s not about the tuna, it’s all in the amount.
So while consumers can breathe easy buying a few cans every month or so, tuna should not be as commonplace as it used to be on the family table by way of tuna melts and casseroles.