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Ah…the sheer frustration of it all. Fish is good for us. Right? Well, not all of it. Some fish is jam-packed with toxins like mercury and/or PCBs. Or so we’ve been hearing for quite a while.

And now…our beloved tuna sushi has joined the list of potentially toxic foods. As little as six pieces of some of the (mostly bluefin) tuna sushi found in reputable Manhattan stores and restaurants just tested as exceeding EPA’s levels of acceptability for mercury. In fact, the more expensive tuna sushi tested higher than the other kinds.

Today’s New York Times (which commissioned the study) tells the story:

High Mercury Levels are Found in Tuna Sushi

The levels in this fresh fish are even higher than most canned tuna, which we’ve already been told to limit. (Chunk light is slightly better than albacore/white when it comes to mercury.) And researchers tell us this is more than likely not limited to Manhattan. No surprise, of course.

But something that did surprise me is that, according to a 2007 study, New Yorkers already test THREE TIMES HIGHER than the national average for mercury. The highest levels were found in Asian New Yorkers (especially foreign-born Chinese) and wealthy New Yorkers of all nationalities. Fish consumption may or may not be the reason – but it sure looks like a likely culprit.

For an alternative to tuna sushi, my Chicago buddy Terry B. of the fabulous Blue Kitchen just posted a recipe today that uses yellowtail tuna from Kona Blue, a company that says it was founded to provide sustainable, high-quality sushi fish and claims “no detectable levels of mercury or PCBs”. You might want to check them out.

Note: I have no relationship with Kona Blue nor have I tried their fish. But I do know until we get industry to lower the mercury levels they are pouring out into our environment, we will be needing more companies dedicated to providing sustainable, high-quality foods.

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Confused about what fish to eat? Is there safe seafood? There’s no reason to give up fish all together. Here’s some great information and a helpful chart from the Environmental Defense Fund:

Making the Smart Choice When Eating Seafood

This EDF article focuses on sustainability as well as toxicity. They also have a terrific Health Alert Chart that tells us how many servings per month is safe for each family member. Plus there’s a handy-dandy foldable PDF version you can take with you when shopping: Pocket Seafood Selector.