This should be titled "Topic of the YEAR!"
Here is a debate that has been raging for quite some time between environmentalists, NGO's (Non-Government Organizations) and the fishing industries. Is there methyl mercury in fish? If so, is it harmful to humans?
The answers (with a grain of salt): Yes, there is methyl mercury in most consumable fish. In fact, there is methyl mercury in almost everything we eat due to the fact that mercury is distributed by both natural processes and by human activity. Mercury is released to surface waters from naturally occurring mercury in rocks and soils. Furthermore, mercury is released into the air from various industries including the burning of fossil fuels and solid waste incineration. Once in the air, it is distributed to the ground via rain. Mercury is everywhere and unavoidable in our foods.
Is it harmful to humans? Absolutely! Here is a small clip taken from the EPA website (read the whole thing here...)... "However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are advising women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid some types of fish and eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
But this is where the grain of salt has to come in. After many recent articles in national newspapers about methyl mercury in seafood, I have had to try to answer the questions that followed for my customers. I did not feel comfortable trying to answer these questions because I had never looked into it. I have always believed that being open and honest with my customers is the absolute best way retain them. So, I did a ton of research, starting with scouring the web. I went into the research with an open mind and was prepared for whatever conclusions I came up with. Furthermore, I scoured all of the trade magazines that I could get my hands on. These were from many different facets of the fishing industry; retail fish, wholesale fish, fish processing, aquaculture, and so on. I also researched the EPA and FDA white papers and their websites. Here is what I found:
I was unable to find anything to support a rise in mercury poisoning from seafood (MPFS) from the EPA, FDA, CDC or even from the 28 page report from Oceana (The one NGO that seems to be touting the issue the most. You can view it for yourself here.) I found, by looking at statistics from other nations where seafood is the main source of protein, such as Japan, Viet Nam, Philippines, Italy, Greece and Norway, that there is NOT a rise in MPFS. In fact, in these nations where fish is a daily staple, there is not a single case of mercury poisoning where the cause can be pin-pointed to the diet. One last thing that I feel supports this is the fact that methyl mercury can be found in almost everything we eat. The mercury is distributed into soil and surface water. This is the same soil that grows our vegetables and the same water that waters them. This is the same vegetation that grows the feed for all livestock that we consume and the same water that livestock drinks. Even most of the bottled water that we consume by the gallon has trace methyl mercury.
Think of it this way: Sugar, Saturated Fats and Salt cause many more health issues (heavily documented; real facts to back it up) than MPFS's.
I am not a health professional, food scientist or professional researcher. I am, however, a fishmonger who wants to provide accurate information to his customers.