Tuna: a Q & A Tuna: a Q & A

Tuna: a Q & A

Special 11 December, 2016 Ana María López de Mesa


After the alert released in October 2016 by Colombia’s National Food and Drug Administration (Invima, Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos) on the high, illegal levels of mercury in some tuna cans and on the damage that this toxic element can have on health, the agency has provided more information on this issue to the public: 

What is tuna?
Tuna is a family of several predatory species of fish that live in the sea. Their size varies depending on the species, as well as their color and flavor.

What makes it a predator?
Because it eats other fish. When it does this, it also ingests the mercury that these other fish have accumulated over time. This is why larger, predatory fish, such as tuna, can have greater levels of mercury in their system than small fish.

Is it healthy to eat fish?
Yes, it is part of a balanced diet. Fish are good source of nutrients and include protein and minerals. They also provide different amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

What types of fish are most commonly consumed in Colombia?
Species such as salmon, tuna, catfish, bocachico (Prochilodus magdalenae, a freshwater fish local to Colombia), tilapia, trout, snapper, tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), basa fish and sardines.

What is mercury?
Mercury is a chemical element that is naturally found in the air, water and soil that can have a variety of toxic effects. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mercury is one of the ten groups of chemical products that most greatly impacts public health, which is why it is important to limit exposure to this metal.
Mercury is therefore harmful to humans. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women, infants that are breastfeeding and for children under age 10.

How is mercury harmful to our health?
With fetus, infants that are breastfeeding and with children, mercury mainly affects their neurological development. This includes brain development, the development of the nervous system, cognitive function, memory, attention span, speech and visual-spatial and fine motor skills.

Fact: The exposure limit to mercury is 1 mg/kg.