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Would you like some Tuna with that Mercury ?


Ciao Ling
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This recent article in the NY Times points to the dangerously high mercury levels in raw tuna samples in several NYC sushi restaurants in NYC. It even appears that the finer establishments may be more prone to higher levels probably because they have access to the largest bluefin tunas. Blue Ribbon Sushi had the highest level in the testing. We all aim to frequent sushi restaurants that have the freshest fish, but how to assess toxins without a lab?

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Just curious as to reactions from today's NY Times Article ? It deals with high levels of mercury found in a lot of tuna in New York. I was a little shocked as a love tuna.

I rarely know the type of tuna I am buying - yellowfin vs bluefin vs albacore. It seems that bluefin is by far the worst from the article, while just noting that yellow and albacore have "much less" mercury. The article focused on both restaurants and groceries - and I thought it nice that Fairway had the least mercury of the 20 or so samples.

The one thing it didn't mention, which would have been helpful was how to tell what tuna you are getting and where the best (not the worst) places to go are (besides perhaps Fairway). I generally get my tuna from Sunrise Mart on Broome/West Broadway when doing sushi, sashimi, tartar at home....

So anyone know how to tell the others vs bluefin ? The problem might be you rarely see the fish whole, so you can't take size into account in many places and perhaps asking might be best?

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hmmm I would be amazed if you could eat enought tuna in a lifetime to make any difference, we ingest toxic fumes every day on the streets of ny, dont see any articles about avoiding breathing, mildew toxic, carbon dioxide toxic, uv rays cause cancer, the press loves to jump all about when something is deemed dangerous,,,,,, who cares your gonna die, chances are it wont be from toro tartar, eat and enjoy or dont, in the end does it really matter at all

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the levels of mercury in fish like this has been known for a long time ..and is cumulative during your life as all heavy metals ..kids and pregnant women should be careful for sure and most folks should limit intake as well ..but a plate of sashimi at my age I am not at all worried ...

ETA I think you can pick any catagory of food and find something very disconcerting about it ....your best protection in life is variety ...eating a wide variety of food (not one thing over and over) helps limit exposure to things bad for you

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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the levels of mercury in fish like this has been known for a long time ..and is cumulative during your life as all heavy metals  ..kids and pregnant women should be careful for sure and most folks should limit  intake as well ..but a plate of sashimi at my age I am not at all worried ...

ETA I think you can pick any catagory of food and find something very disconcerting about it ....your best protection in life is variety ...eating a wide variety of food (not one thing over and over) helps limit exposure to things bad for you

As long as everyone makes an informed risk-benefit decision- to each (or eat) at his/her own risk. I live in Rochester. There are sport fisherman who eat their catch from Lake Ontario no matter what variety despite fish that are known to be laden with PCBs and dioxin with recommendations in some cases not to eat any at all or at most 1 serving/month.

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I think this is a good reminder for kitchen staff that has access to more fish than is the usual case for the mere mortal amongst us.

I know someone who strikingly resembles the Mad Hatter because they ate so much canned tuna over sucha long period of time that through the looking glass they appear kinda mercuried. It happens.

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Who cares?

If I worried about every single foodstuff that was supposed to negatively impact my health I wouldn't have time to eat or even sleep!

Um... did you read the article? Some of this fish had mercury levels high enough that the government could take it off the market. One of the sushi places had fish with enough mercury (and pieces large enough) that the RfD would be exceeded by eating only two pieces of sushi. Would you care if it were lead instead or mercury?

Mercury isn't something that is "connected to health problems" like eating lots of saturated fat. Mercury is a cumulative heavy metal poison that has a well-understood affect on the body, and eating a dozen pieces of high mercury tuna sushi three times a week would definitely be dangerous.

--

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Who cares?

If I worried about every single foodstuff that was supposed to negatively impact my health I wouldn't have time to eat or even sleep!

Um... did you read the article? Some of this fish had mercury levels high enough that the government could take it off the market. One of the sushi places had fish with enough mercury (and pieces large enough) that the RfD would be exceeded by eating only two pieces of sushi. Would you care if it were lead instead or mercury?

Mercury isn't something that is "connected to health problems" like eating lots of saturated fat. Mercury is a cumulative heavy metal poison that has a well-understood affect on the body, and eating a dozen pieces of high mercury tuna sushi three times a week would definitely be dangerous.

I think what bothers me more is somehow this becomes "news" now?

In healthcare we have been telling pregnant women and parents for about as long as I can remember now to avoid tuna! I kind of get pissed off when I see suddenly the levels are so high they could pull it! for crying out loud they have been high! my whole generation was raised on heavy metal and pesticides ..sad but true ..

I was quite sick a while back and the doctor insisted on having heavy metal levels drawn because of where I had lived ...in a very contaminated area ..where kids are now being told to take shoes off outside to avoid bringing toxic soil into the house...for almost 20 years we ate all my garden produce.... thinking it was safe and healthier than store bought...my levels were below the national average was what I was told....thank goodness it was kind of unnerving for a while thinking I could have poisoned my family!

the bottom line is for people who eat a dozen pieces of high mercury tuna three times a week ...DON"T! I am jealous on the one hand because I love tuna and would love to eat that much ..but it is imo not a good nutritional practice to eat that much of anything during a week and to spread out the wealth so you dont accumulate toxic levels

and I think it is time to quit acting like this is such a surprise is all ...

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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My semiweekly tuna from the Teriyaki Boy near work should be lower risk, since that takeout place can't possibly be buying the more expensive, more compromised bluefin tuna.

Though maybe now that'll wholesale more cheaply.

Damn.

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Who cares?

If I worried about every single foodstuff that was supposed to negatively impact my health I wouldn't have time to eat or even sleep!

Um... did you read the article? Some of this fish had mercury levels high enough that the government could take it off the market. One of the sushi places had fish with enough mercury (and pieces large enough) that the RfD would be exceeded by eating only two pieces of sushi. Would you care if it were lead instead or mercury?

Mercury isn't something that is "connected to health problems" like eating lots of saturated fat. Mercury is a cumulative heavy metal poison that has a well-understood affect on the body, and eating a dozen pieces of high mercury tuna sushi three times a week would definitely be dangerous.

I think what bothers me more is somehow this becomes "news" now?

In healthcare we have been telling pregnant women and parents for about as long as I can remember now to avoid tuna! I kind of get pissed off when I see suddenly the levels are so high they could pull it! for crying out loud they have been high! my whole generation was raised on heavy metal and pesticides ..sad but true ..

I was quite sick a while back and the doctor insisted on having heavy metal levels drawn because of where I had lived ...in a very contaminated area ..where kids are now being told to take shoes off outside to avoid bringing toxic soil into the house...for almost 20 years we ate all my garden produce.... thinking it was safe and healthier than store bought...my levels were below the national average was what I was told....thank goodness it was kind of unnerving for a while thinking I could have poisoned my family!

the bottom line is for people who eat a dozen pieces of high mercury tuna three times a week ...DON"T! I am jealous on the one hand because I love tuna and would love to eat that much ..but it is imo not a good nutritional practice to eat that much of anything during a week and to spread out the wealth so you dont accumulate toxic levels

and I think it is time to quit acting like this is such a surprise is all ...

I agree with hummingbirdkiss (beautiful name by the way) that the dangers of mercury in certain fish has been known as in this summary from a Consumer Reports Article, but the levels are not of the magnitude as seen in the NY Times article, most likely because canned fish is not premium bluefin, but albacore or yellowfin. I think what I found amazing is as slkinsey indicated- that 2 pieces of high quality tuna, could put you well above government "safe" limits such that the government might actually restrict its sale (like Lake Ontario PCB laden fish).

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I think this is news because many people don't expect high-end food to be toxic. Canned tuna on your supermarket shelf, yes, but the fresh tuna at (per the article) Nobu Next Door? That's going to be news to a lot of people. Fats or sugars in many other foods are no good in large quantities either, but those aren't inherently toxic ingredients. I'm not sure if the pesticides on fruits and vegetables and the various hormones and other drugs in our meat supply are more or less dangerous than the mercury in tuna, but the ability to purchase high end organic meats, fruits, and vegetables might be fooling people into thinking that if you eat high end sushi, that too should be safe. I haven't personally eaten sushi in a few years now. It's too much of a hassle for me to figure out what is sustainable and what isn't (and that isn't what I want to be doing in a sushi bar anyway -- I just want to eat), so I just don't bother.

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I agree that the mercury levels can be alarming. However, this has been known for years. Variety is the key to staying healthy in this and all instances concerning food. Beef is high in cholestorel, donuts high in trans fat(except in NYC, thank you Big Brother) and foie gras is as bad for you as it is for the duck if you ask one of those crazy PETA people. Coffee and alcohol can both have ill effects on one's being. AND DON'T FORGET ABOUT UNPASTEURIZED CHEESES AND MILK FOR GOD'S SAKE, thank god big brother banned those or we'd all be dead by now.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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There is nothing in the world like perfect tuna..the way it feels in your mouth and that flavor ..it is a moment in time I think as much as a bite of food

it should be enjoyed and appreciated ...but not over done ..

it is such a shame that we even have to have this thread ..but we live in this here for better or worse and you just have to pick and choose your risks I guess

I will eat tuna

I would like it with less mercury however :raz:

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Comparing this to things like cholesterol or saturated fats is to wildly miss the point. We're talking about mercury levels of over 1 part per million. This is legitemately scary. It's not about a minor risk of unpleasant illness, like eColi, or health effects that can be easily managed through reasonable diet, like saturated fats. This is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body. longterm effects can be devastating.

Is anyone talking about where the mercury is coming from, and what could be done about it?

In the mean time, maybe a little hysteria will help curb the overfishing of large tuna species.

Notes from the underbelly

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There is nothing in the world like perfect tuna..the way it feels in your mouth and that flavor ..it is a moment in time I think as much as a bite of food

it should be enjoyed and appreciated ...but not over done ..

it is such a shame that we even have to have this thread  ..but we live in this here for better or worse and you just have to pick and choose your risks I guess

I will eat tuna

I would like it with less mercury however  :raz:

What I find more disturbing isn't that there's mercury in tuna than the fact that this seems to have come as such a big shock to so many people and the media.

As others have pointed out, mercury is a persistent heavy metal that accumulates in the body. The tuna most often used in top restaurants are from the largest, fattiest, and thus oldest and well fed tuna in the seas. Since tuna are a top level predator in the oceans, anyone who understood their middle or high school biology classes should intuitively know that tuna, especially the type of tuna used for sushi and sashimi will have a much higher level of contamination than other types of fish. The concentration of pollutants and toxins increases in each level of the food chain, ultimately ending at our dinner tables. I suspect that if one were to actually analyze the contaminants in all the different predatory fish from the top of the ocean food chain which appear on our tables, I doubt anyone would ever really be able to think of them as "clean" and "healthy" again.

This fact isn't unique to fish, of course. It applies across the board. Everything which goes into the soil, air, or water ultimately finds a way into the food chain and ends up in the food on our tables. It's a simple fact of life. If we want "clean" food, we have to figure out a way to eliminate the contaminants and pollutants being released into the environment. Since humans occupy the highest niche on the food chain, our bodies likely have an even higher level of contamination than the tuna. Not to be morbid, but given the realities of the world we live in, I can't imagine that many people would have contaminant levels in their bodies which would be considered to be acceptable or safe if they were in the foods which we consume at our meals.

That said, will I continue to eat tuna? I won't shy away from a nice piece of tuna now and again. I don't often eat tuna, swordfish,or anything from very large predatory fish as a regular part of my diet for the reasons above. I generally stick with smaller fish which are a bit lower on the food chain as I think they're a bit safer (not safe, but safer). There's no denying the pleasure to be had from a nice piece of sashimi or sushi once in a while. When I do eat anything like that, I enjoy it to the fullest, but I'm not fooling myself about the realities of what I'm eating. I just don't make it a regular part of my diet.

-Mike-

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Right. I'm with Paul on this one. Mercury is a cumulative poison. It's not like eating donuts or porterhouse steak where you can largely mitigate any potential negative health impact with a few days of low-fat salads. Furthermore, not all that many people are eating fried chicken for dinner 3 times a week, and most everyone understands that it's unhealthy. Plenty of people eat bluefin tuna 3-5 times a week -- in significant part, because it is perceived as healthy. I certainly wouldn't want to be eating 5 pieces of Japonica's tuna sushi every Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- and I am quite sure there are people who do just that.

--

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um I eat tuna and believe in evolution

I think it is more of a pleasure risk thing than a denial thing but that is ok whatever ..it is not what I would tell someone else to do but I am ok with the choice I make ...

but I dont eat tuna 5 times a week it is a bit of it now and then ...

I also eat Mexican candy wrapped in lead laden wrappers ..and risk choking to death on the Asian jel cups...it is a moment in time ..some nostalgia and reminds me of when I was really young and tried to be very risk taking and idealistic about life

tuna gives me that moment mercury or not ...yes life is short and I am acutely aware of that right now ...

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I think it is more of a pleasure risk thing than a denial thing but that is ok whatever ..

I can agree with that, no problem. I go ice climbing every weekend I can, which from a survival standpoint is arguably less clever than eating tuna every day.

But I worry that people are making poor evaluations of the risk when they make casual comparisons between mercury and donuts.

If you've seriously evaluated the risks, then no should bully you for your decision.

Notes from the underbelly

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Marion Burros was on NPR discussing this article yesterday. 60% of the mercury found in fish is not from manmade pollutants, but from fish living in proximity to volcanoes and the such. Therefore, we've been eating this for hundreds of years, as well as living in houses with asbestos and lead paint as soon as forty years ago. Some people are more susceptible to this and other problems than others. But with moderation, it greatly reduces your risk to any health defects. Marion Burros said that as well on the show.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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Marion Burros was on NPR discussing this article yesterday. 60% of the mercury found in fish is not from manmade pollutants, but from fish living in proximity to volcanoes and the such. Therefore, we've been eating this for hundreds of years, as well as living in houses with asbestos and lead paint as soon as forty years ago. Some people are more susceptible to this and other problems than others. But with moderation, it greatly reduces your risk to any health defects. Marion Burros said that as well on the show.

Thanks for posting that info. I didn't catch that segment yesterday. I would have liked to hear it.

Did the segment cite a source for the figures quoted? I'd be very curious to know the source of those figures and how they arrived at their conclusion. If it's accurate, then our industries and activities aren't responsible for nearly as much as I would have expected, but even if we're only responsible for forty percent, that's quite a lot.

I think the general consensus is that moderation in all things is a good hedge against any ill effects from one type of food or another. I don't think enjoying tuna or any other food for that matter is going to be the cause of one's demise, assuming it's part of a well balanced diet.

-Mike-

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The comments here mirror the follow-up article interviewing Manhattanites in The NY Times:

"In conversations at sushi restaurants and stores that sell sushi, some customers said they were considering changing their eating habits. Some said that they themselves did not eat much sushi, but that they planned to tell spouses or significant others to eat less and to be more concerned about the cumulative effects of mercury in fish. Some shrugged, saying the test results were just one more thing to be concerned about in a world of things to be concerned about."

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