Consumer groups want tuna removed from school lunches

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DETROIT - The Mercury Policy Project, a Vermont-based organization, and other consumer groups are now advocating the removal of tuna from school lunchrooms.

The coalition of groups has already taken their recommendation to the United States Department of Agriculture in an attempt to set the wheels in motion. The Mercury Policy Project says children may be ingesting high levels of mercury along with each bite of food made from the fish.

The tuna industry says canned tuna "is safe and wholesome" and claims children actually don't eat enough of the high-protein seafood.

However, the Food and Drug Administration draws a distinction between types of canned tuna.

According to the FDA, young children can safely eat up to one six-ounce serving of albacore per week, but lists light canned tuna as the lower-in-mercury fish option.

The Findings

In an attempt to look closer at the risks children face by eating fish at school, The Mercury Policy Project tested nearly 60 samples of canned tuna sold to schools, finding widely-varying levels of mercury.  In some cases, levels were higher than those permitted by federal guidelines.

The group says consumption of albacore or white tuna can as much as triple a child's mercury exposure.

If You Must Eat Fish

According to the Mercury Policy Projects, schools and parents continuing to serve children tuna fish should limit the practice according to each individual child's size.

The group says that while children over 55 pounds should have "light tuna" no more than two meals a month, children under that weight should have the number of tuna-inclusive meals reduced by half.  Likewise, the Mercury Policy Project stresses that no child of any size should eat tuna every day.

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