High Mercury Levels Found In Swordfish

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

September 21, 2005

There is a health alert tonight about the amount of mercury found in fish sold in grocery stores in our region. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the amount of mercury that is found in fish. A new study has revealed that mercury levels in some swordfish were above the legal limit.

Mercury is contained in almost every fish, but the Food FDA regulates what is a normal amount, and what is toxic.

"They monitor the food supply and they see a level that's in this range or out of the range they say is safe, they need to investigate why that's going on," said Dr. Mark Kirk, a UVa Toxicologist.

The University of North Carolina lab did just that, they tested 24 swordfish samples, store bought from several supermarkets including Whole Foods. The results were above the legal limit for mercury in fish. Although according to Dr. Kirk, the amount isn't enough to cause serious harm.

"The FDA and the EPA have established what they consider to be the safe level to eat and that's based on eating one or two fish meals per week. If you use it in moderation you're not likely to get near the levels that they think are of concern," said Kirk.

But the federal government does advise pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid fish with high levels of mercury. They have been linked to learning disabilities in children and heart and kidney problems in adults.

Whole Foods couldn't be reached for comment on this study but they did release this statement advising they will continue to sell high quality seafood.

The FDA can take legal action to remove a product from the market if mercury levels exceed the legal limit.

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