Sunday, January 01, 2006

US to probe mercury risk in canned tuna: paper

US to probe mercury risk in canned tuna: paper

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will investigate reports that some canned tuna sold in the United States may contain species with potentially dangerous levels of mercury, a top agency official told the Chicago Tribune in an article on Saturday.

David Acheson, the FDA's chief medical officer, was quoted by the paper as saying his agency would review the possibility that some cans of "light tuna" contain yellowfin tuna, a potentially high-mercury species.

"We will definitely look at it through our office of seafood and determine whether there is something that requires further action," Acheson was quoted as saying.

The FDA recommends U.S. consumers eat more light, or skipjack, tuna, than white, or albacore, tuna, because skipjack is a smaller fish that tends to be less tainted by the toxic metal than its larger cousin.

But in a three-part series published earlier this month, the Tribune reported that yellowfin tuna, another large tuna species which the government has identified as a high-mercury fish, was being packaged and sold as light tuna in as many as 180 million cans of each year.

The tuna industry has disputed the Tribune's reports and insists that no one is at risk from the minute amounts of mercury they acknowledge is found in their products.

In the Tribune story Saturday, David Burney, the executive director of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, said the industry would cooperate with the FDA inquiry but called the concerns about yellowfin "a non-issue."