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April 09, 2007

Mercury-Free Canned Tuna

Americantunacan I have discovered a brand of canned albacore tuna that appears to be the most mercury-free albacore tuna on the shelves today. And best of all, you can buy it locally at Whole Foods. No fussing with mail-order.   

I personally love the taste and convenience of tuna. It's high-protein, portable and shelf-stable. I always carry a can with me if I'm going on a trip as an emergency food stash. But when the info came out years ago that canned tuna had high levels of mercury, I cut back my consumption considerably. It's important to point out that there are many different species within the genus of tuna. The specific species that contain unsafe amounts of mercury are found in older yellowfin, blue fin and albacore. All these species can reach a long life span of over 40 years. As these fish get older, they migrate to warmer pacific waters where they have  many years of mercury accumulation under their belts. (Yes, Virginia, fish wear belts.)

Americantune_2American Tuna is run by six fishing families from San Diego, CA. These families (see picture) represent two to three generations of fishing for albacore with the pole & line (aka hook & line) method. Their fish is caught in the *cold* waters off the Pacific Northwest coastline. Hook and Line method ensures that these fish are surface-caught. Surface-caught fish are smaller in size. All American Tuna fish are between the ages of 2-5 years old with an average weight of 15 pounds. Mercury levels in such fish are at minimal trace levels, some non-detectable.

American Tuna's albacore is tested by Oregon State University for mercury, and these reports will be published on the American Tuna web site shortly.

Besides the lowest mercury levels, their fish also has very high omega-3 content since the cooler waters of the Pacific Northwest produce a higher body fat. You can taste it in the tuna; it has a deep buttery flavor and creamy texture. The tuna is cooked only once in it's natural juices. No water, broth or oil is added. The oil that you see in the can is the naturally occuring omega-3s!

In summary, American Tuna has no- to low-mercury, higher omega-3s, and uses sustainable fishing* methods. It's a luxury item at $5 a can, but this forager thinks it's worth it.

Postscript:

*See the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch page on albacore. The problem with longline fishing (the opposite of pole & line) is that it leads to a lot of by-catch of threatened or endangered sea turtles, sharks and seabirds. Big international problem.

In the market, albacore is also called "tombo", "canned white tuna", and "longfin tunny".

American Tuna's 4 lb. can is carried at Whole Foods in the SoCal region and will soon be added to other region's inventory. Also in stores soon -- 4 different kinds of smoked albacore.

Environmental Defense advisory on longline-caught albacore.

See followup post to this post.

 

Comments

Carla,
This is wonderful news! The convenience of tuna without the mercury. I haven't had a tuna sandwich for years due to mercury fears! Thanks so much for posting this article. Great!! Keep up your great work.

CB: I have bought this tuna and I really like it. Some ways I prepare it are: with home-made mayo on a sandwich or salad. Combine some diced onion, mayo, bread crumbs and lightly coat in flour and fry in butter/olive oil as patties. Also, I have been into the "Pure Alaskan Salmon." Wild Pacific Northwest Salmon in a can. Sold locally at Whole Foods. steven

The info was interesting. The next time I get to Whole Foods, I'm going to purchase this tuna.

Carla,
Thanks for giving us the low-down on a decent tuna sans mercury. Now I can safely serve tuna to my 5 year old who loves fish.

You are all fools to pay more money because you fear poisoning yourself with mercury if you eat other canned tuna. Do it because its more sustainable, not because you fear the ghost of methylmercury in fish.

"Mercury levels in such fish are at minimal trace levels, some non-detectable"

That's a nice sentiment, but do you actually test the product for heavy metal ppm?

The comments to this entry are closed.

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