December 31, 2005

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."