The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is blasting a new study from US consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports recommending consumers limit their consumption or avoid canned tuna sold by leading brands Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea, Safe Catch and Wild Planet because of mercury levels in the fish.
And it is calling on the consumer watchdog to release a detailed report of its findings.
NFI called the new study -- "How Worried Should You Be About Mercury in Your Tuna” -- a "quintessential example of a news outlet writing its conclusion first and then reverse engineering the story to fit it."
Consumer Reports, which has 3.6 million members, said in the article it tested 30 cans of tuna -- both albacore and light -- for mercury and recommended that pregnant women avoid canned tuna and adults limit their consumption to 8 to 12 ounces per week.
NFI, which has battled for years against mercury claims such as those contained in the Consumer Reports article, charged that the magazine failed to reveal the actual mercury levels found in all of the cans it sampled.
"Do you know why we suspect they didn’t do that? Here’s our hypothesis – because none of the samples they tested came even remotely close to exceeding the FDA’s action level and weren’t even in the universe of what the FDA considers a level of harm," NFI said.
The US seafood industry's largest trade group claimed it saw some of the Consumer Reports' results, and noted that "in one set of tests, the highest level of mercury found in a 'light' can of tuna was .58 parts per million (ppm), and the highest level of mercury found in an albacore can was .66 ppm. The FDA’s action level, or the limit for mercury in fish, is 1 ppm.
"Neither of these levels begin to even approach this limit and are completely safe to consume," the group said.
Consumer Reports said in its article that of the 30 samples it found six individual spikes in mercury content that would change the FDA’s recommendation about how often someone should eat that particular tuna.
“From can to can, mercury levels can spike in unpredictable ways that might jeopardize the health of a fetus,” said James Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
NFI labeled the report "journalistic malpractice," claiming Consumer Reports was contacted by the trade group on Jan. 11 about the findings but the consumer watchdog "chose to leave this vital information out of the report, opting instead to peddle their obscured findings in search of exactly what they’re getting today -- sensational headlines."
The group is calling on Consumer Reports to publish a chart that shows all 30 of their samples and the levels of mercury found in each, compared to FDA’s action level.