Canned Tuna v. Canned Salmon
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found the average mercury levels of canned albacore tuna to be much higher than the mercury levels of canned salmon. Every sample of canned salmon tested by the FDA had mercury levels below the detection level of .01 parts per million, whereas the samples of canned albacore tuna it tested had an average mercury level of .353 parts per million. In other words, FDA’s tests found the average mercury level of canned albacore tuna to be at least 35 times higher than the level in canned salmon.

Because of these levels in tuna, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that women of childbearing age and children eat no more than 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna and tuna steaks per week.

In addition, salmon is very high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Just one three to six ounce serving of canned salmon each week provides a whole week’s worth of Omega-3’s. This is because wild salmon contains 300 to 650 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per ounce, much more than other commonly eaten fish. Anchovies and Atlantic mackerel are other high Omega options that are low in mercury. Some scientists recommend consuming 250 mg of Omegas per day, an amount which is easily met by modest fish consumption in accordance with FDA’s mercury advice.

Many stores sell canned Alaska wild salmon in the canned fish section alongside canned tuna and many consumers have found salmon salad to be a tasty alternative to tuna salad. In addition to lower mercury levels, another reason many consumers choose Alaska wild salmon is that it is a better option for keeping our oceans healthy. You can find out more in the Mini-Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood (pdf).

Albacore Tuna v. Chunk Light Tuna
If your family just can’t give up its canned tuna but wants to keep mercury risks low, you can choose chunk light tuna, instead of albacore tuna. FDA’s tests have found average mercury levels in canned chunk light tuna to be about one third the average mercury levels in canned Albacore tuna (also known as solid white tuna). Hard core tuna eaters should remember, however, that FDA recommends women of child-bearing age and kids should limit their overall fish consumption to 12 oz. per week, due to the low levels of mercury in most fish.

What’s the deal with the different mercury levels?
Mercury builds up in wildlife through a process called bioaccumulation. At each level on the food chain, mercury concentrations are higher than the level below. So since different species of fish are at different levels of the food chain, mercury concentrations differ dramatically from one species to another.

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