Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mercury in 80% of swordfish exceeds FDA limits

Want mercury? A new study shows mercury in 80% of swordfish is above FDA action levels.

Results from the FDA are a little better, just under 50% of swordfish are over FDA action levels.

What does this mean for people who eat swordfish? If you're a pregnant or nursing woman, it would be very bad indeed to eat fish over FDA action levels, your baby's brain may not work like it should. Is this a real world problem? The CDC found that 6% of women of child-bearing age had elevated mercury levels that would put babies at risk.

If you're an adult, things aren't so bad, but Dr. Jane Hightower has studied real world patients with elevated mercury and found they weren't exactly happy about the mercury symptoms. However, once they cleaned up their diet, the symptoms disappeared. What symptoms? Nothing serious, just hair loss and problems with vision, coordination, hearing and speech.

So what's going to happen? Is the FDA going to remove swordfish from our grocery shelves? After all, isn't that what an "action level" means? FDA says this about "action level:"
Action levels and tolerances represent limits at or above which FDA will take legal action to remove products from the market.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the FDA to remove mercury-rich fish from our food supply. I guess by the time we find out there's a mercury problem, the swordfish has already been eaten so it can't come off the market. Bon Appetit.


Anonymous said...

"Preliminary findings from this study (Nutrient and Methyl Mercury Exposure from Consuming Fish) suggest that the beneficial influence of nutrients from fish may counter any adverse effects of MeHg on the developing nervous system. J. Nutr. 137: 2805-2808, 2007.

Mark Powell said...

Mercury in fish is risky, especially for babies and kids, according to the National Academy of Sciences, our "Supreme Court" of science. I'll go along with their conclusion.

In particular, the National Academy concluded that it is inappropriate to dismiss risks of mercury in fish based on the Seychelles study results cited by Anonymous, see

This authoritative review considered all studies to date and synthesized results from all studies including the Seychelles study cited by anonymous. There does not seem to be a protective nutrient as suggested by anonymous.

For more details, see

Anonymous said...

Is this site reliable?

Mark Powell said...

IMO it's an estimate at best, based on what I can see at I don't see how they can get an accurate answer from the info that you put into the calculator. I would use it only as a guide regarding whether eating habits create a risk of mercury exposure.