The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom is criticizing research released today by the American Museum of Natural History, which raises an undue level of concern about trace levels of mercury in sushi-grade tuna. The report is correct to observe that mercury levels vary across different tuna species; but in warning that most tuna samples “approach or exceed” U.S. safety guidelines, the Museum is ignoring the substantial safety cushion built in to those guidelines. Taking that cushion into account, all of the tuna samples measured for the Museum’s report are perfectly safe to eat.

The Food and Drug Administration has written that its methylmercury “Action Level” (1.0 part per million) “was established to limit consumers’ methylmercury exposure to levels 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.” Accordingly, the Action Level (like the EPA’s “Reference Dose”) actually identifies mercury levels that are ten percent of what might justify a health concern.

“It’s true that not all tuna species are created equal,” said David Martosko, CCF’s Director of Research. “But they’re identical where it counts: All tuna should be considered a health food, since none of the tuna that sushi lovers crave contains harmful mercury levels. The American Museum of Natural History is raising an unjustified alarm. The entire body of medical literature contains zero American cases of mercury poisoning from the consumption of commercially caught fish. But evidence of fish’s health benefits is plentiful.”  

According to scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the benefits of a nutrient-packed diet of seafood far outweigh any hypothetical risk from trace levels of naturally-occurring toxins.

Martosko continued, “This new research will only serve to drive American consumers away from the sushi bar. We’ve come to expect this level of scientific blindness from environmental activists, but we should expect the American Museum of Natural History to focus on education, not fear mongering.”