B.C.: Eat Canadian-caught albacore ‘freely’

British Columbia is now advising its residents to eat Canadian-caught albacore tuna “freely.” Previously, the province’s Ministry of Health and Centre of Disease Control urged consumers to limit their intake of albacore tuna due to the health risks associated with the neurotoxin methylmercury.

In its updated seafood-consumption advisory, which is designed specifically for British Columbians, the province advises consumers, including pregnant and nursing women and young children, to eat salmon, rainbow trout, shrimp, Atlantic mackerel, sole and Canadian-caught albacore tuna “freely.”

However, British Columbia still recommends that consumers, including men, limit their intake of certain species; the restrictions are based on the person’s age and gender. For example, children six to 24 months of age are told to avoid eating bigeye tuna, swordfish, shark, Arctic char and five other species, while women of childbearing age, including pregnant and nursing women, are told to limit their intake of these species to two servings per month.

Also, all consumers are told to limit their intake of canned tuna, except albacore tuna labeled as a product of British Columbia or Canada.

(Canada’s Food Guide advises consumers to eat at least two servings of fish per week for both adults and children two years of age and older.)

In its e-newsletter on Wednesday, Canadian Albacore Tuna, which represents B.C. tuna fishermen and processors, praised the move, adding “food safety, traceability, and sustainability practices are the cornerstones of our seafood sector and have earned British Columbia an international reputation for safe, reliable and top-quality seafood products.”

British Columbia’s decision to take Canadian-caught albacore tuna off of the limit-consumption list comes as legislators, health professionals and seafood proponents in the United States urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revise its seafood-consumption advice for pregnant and nursing women in light of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which for the time encourage consumers to eat seafood at least twice per week for heart and brain health.

Since 2004, the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency has warned pregnant and nursing women and young children to limit their limit albacore tuna intake to 6 ounces per week and avoid consuming swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish altogether due to methylmercury concerns.

But, in a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg in mid-March, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the FDA-EPA advisory is inconsistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent recommendation and with scientific research confirming that the health benefits of eating seafood regularly far outweigh the risks.


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