Why differences in tuna limits?

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 51, No. 6, July August 2009, Page 239 Letters

With respect to canned tuna in Canada, HealthLink BC Files recommend that Bri­tish Columbians limit consumption of all types of canned tuna[1] whereas Health Canada currently recommends limiting consumption of albacore tuna.[2] HealthLink BC and Health Canada have set different serving limits and age categories in their fish consumption recommendations. The recommendations also differ somewhat from those of the State of Washington and the US FDA/EPA.[3]

One of my associates, Dr Laurie Chan, chair of Aboriginal environmental health at UNBC, has told me that cheaper light tuna tends to have an Hg level 5 times lower than that found in albacore tuna.[4]

I would sincerely like to know the background, rationale, and references used by the Ministry of Health and the CDC to make this recommendation. I remember listening to Ray Copes in a meeting one day, and he mentioned that he had come across a case of Hg poisoning in a boy that was related to some higher-than-normal Hg levels in some canned tuna. Is the recommendation based on this incident? I would also like to know which government agency should be looked to for contaminant consumption advice.

—Karen Fediuk, RD


1. HealthLink BC Health Files. Healthy Eating: Choose Fish Low in Mercury. www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile68m.stm (accessed 19 February 2009).
2. Health Canada. Mercury in Fish. Consumption Advice: Making Informed Choices about Fish. www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php (accessed 19 February 2009).
3. Washington State Department of Health. Fish Facts for Healthy Nutrition. www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/fish/fishadvisories.htm (accessed 19 February 2009).
4. Burger J, Gochfeld M. Mercury in canned tuna: white versus light and temporal variation. Environmental Research 96 2004:239-249. PubMed Abstract

Karen Fediuk, RD,. Why differences in tuna limits?. BCMJ, Vol. 51, No. 6, July, August, 2009, Page(s) 239 - Letters.

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