Out of all the foods that could be full of neurotoxins and dolphin ghosts—why does it always have to be tuna? Delicious, delicious tuna. Tuna is a wonder-food that comes either in a can or in a fish. The canned kind is cheap, and is where tuna melts come from, which makes it a national treasure. The fish kind is expensive, and is where sushi comes from, which makes me hungry right now. But, of course, this being the cruel practical joke known as "human existence," we probably shouldn't be eating either of them if we care at all about sustainable fisheries, dolphin murder, general ecologic collapse, and not ingesting large amounts of brain poison. Ugh. Under particular fire right now: canned tuna in school lunchrooms.
Consumer activist groups are looking to take tuna off of school lunch menus, citing wildly variable (and potentially unsafe) mercury levels in tests of canned tuna. The Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project tested 59 samples and found that while some were similar to the findings of previous FDA tests, certain samples far exceeded federal guidelines:
The levels of methylmercury were in general close to previous tests done by the Food and Drug Administration. However, levels of mercury varied widely, even from the same can or pouch. The average methylmercury content ranged from 0.02 to 0.64 parts per million in light tuna and between 0.19 and 1.27 parts per million in albacore tuna.
"On any given day in a given school, children eating the same meal could get mercury doses that vary by tenfold," just because of the variability of the chunk of meat in the packet," says Edward Groth, author of the report, released Wednesday. It was sponsored by several groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
But, I mean, it tastes good, right? I don't taste any mercury. What's the worst that can happen—I turn into the Mad Hatter and get to have a hilarious tea party with a talking mouse (and unlimited tuna sandwiches!!!) until the end of time? That dude seems pretty happy—and he's famous.
But JK. Obv. Here's the best part of this whole kerfuffle: the inevitable backpedaling PR-pong between the anti-mercury people and the tuna lobby.
Tuna industry groups countered that canned tuna is safe and wholesome. The real public health issue is that "we don't eat enough" seafood, says Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute, a seafood industry group in McLean, Va.
..."To suggest we're eating too much is almost comical," he says. Scaring children away from tuna "at a point in their life when they're developing their nutrition habits and their palates" is damaging.
Yyyyyyyyyeah!!! The real problem with tuna being packed with unpredictable mercury levels is that we don't eat enough tuna! Quit damaging the children by taking away their DELICIOUS POISON FISH-WICHES. Feed them as many fish-wiches as their little mouths can hold! For AMERICA.
Or, don't do that at all:
Kids who eat a tuna sandwich a month aren't at risk but some children, "we don't know how many there are," love tuna and eat a lot of it, [Groth] says. Even four times a month could have "subtle adverse effects" on some children. "We're trying to put those kids on the map," he says.
Look. I don't know what we're supposed to do here. Everything we eat seems to be full of poison and everything we do seems to be terrible for the environment. So if you absolutely must eat delicious, delicious tuna fish (and I, personally, DO MUST), just try to keep an eye on which fishes are sustainably caught, relatively poison-free, not from a disgusting parasite farm, and have a relatively low-impact on their habitat. Sigh. Tuna. A cruel mistress filled with brain-poison.
**If you're a vulnerable fetus and/or hypochondriac who eats more than eight tuna sandwiches a month and you're wondering whether or not you have mercury poisoning, here's a handy list of symptoms. Enjoy!
Take tuna off school menus, group says [USA Today]
Photo credit: robynmac / Stockfresh.