Is Our Fish is Poisoned!?

(I thought I’d try an Oregonian newspaper-style headline)

According to the New York Times,

Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. The sushi was bought by The New York Times in October.

Everyone gasped, and then patted themselves on the back, saying, “Well, we live on the west coast, so don’t have to worry!”. Then a week later a national study by Oceana, an international conservation group, issued a report that found the same problem nationwide.

Some of their key findings:

  • Mercury levels in tuna were much higher than the FDA data suggest
  • One-third of sushi tuna samples exceeded the FDA “action level” of 1 part per million
  • Nearly 90 percent of seafood counter attendants either did not know the FDA advice about mercury in fish, or gave a wrong interpretation of this warning
  • Two-thirds of swordfish tested were above the FDA “action level”, which would permit the administration to remove these fish from sale

As a follow up, on January 24th, The Times published a follow-up piece titled “Warnings Don’t Deter Lovers of Sushi“.

Scary stuff for those who eat lots of sushi, or fish in general. What do you think… will this effect how much fish you eat? How long will it be until one of our local papers checks up on local fish.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. nate says

    Here’s an interesting response that came in on my RSS feed the other day to what appears to be shoddy, alarmist reporting by the Times:

    From the Washington Independent.

  2. one swell foop says

    It will affect how much in the way of larger fish I eat. Never did eat swordfish though. As a kid, growing up close-ish to the gulf coast, we went fishing for king mackerel several times a year. As much fun as it was, we wound up selling our boat and stopping since it was getting harder and harder to get down there and spend the time, and mercury levels in the kings were rising. I’m under the impression that that’s the case with any fish that tends to grow larger, live a longer life, and consume large quantities of bait-fish.
    I don’t think it’s as much of an issue with species like flounder, snapper, and so on.

  3. boriskat says

    Firstly, this topic has been blown out of proportion: http://www.slate.com/id/2182823/

    Secondly, if you want a good reason to refrain from eating fish, do so because they’re all being overfished, not because they might poison you. I would hope that a little self control would go a long way toward helping all of us (not to mention future generations) live in moderation.

    I do eat fish (about once a month or so), at least those on this guide: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx Also, if you shop at New Seasons, they use this same guide to color-mark their fish. Perhaps some other stores do it, too, but since I live about 100 yards from a New Seasons, I don’t tend to shop other places.

    Happy (and thoughtful) eating!

  4. Apollo says

    A couple years ago I had a toxicity test run on my blood. The results came back and I had an alarmingly high level of mercury in my system. I had been eating a lot of nigiri sushi around that time, most of it maguro, toro, and other large fish. Suffice to say I cut back on my sushi addiction, and upon being retested my mercury levels were much closer to a tolerable threshold. I think moderation is the key. Knowing the fish is high in mercury, maybe sushi five times a week isn’t the best idea.

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