How Much Mercury Is in Your Sushi? (Part 2) - NBC Southern California

How Much Mercury Is in Your Sushi? (Part 2)



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    Our investigation into mercury levels in seafood and sushi continues.

    Eating healthy is part of the California lifestyle and for many of us, so is eating sushi.

    The government says that all fish contain at least some level of mercury. While the great majority of it is within federal limits, some fish ends up on diners' plates containing mercury levels two to three times the federal limit. So how can you tell?

    The Dolce Group, owners of trendy Geisha House in Hollywood, Ketchup Restaurant and several popular nightclubs in Los Angeles, are among the first to offer sushi and fish that has been certified low in mercury.

    "We joined forces with a program called safe harbor, which is a company that developed the first rapid mercury test for seafood that can actually make it commercially possible to test each piece of fish that goes into a restaurant to ensure it has a low mercury content," Vice President David Jarrett tells NBCLA.  

    VIDEO: How much mercury is in your Sushi (part 2)?

    [LA] VIDEO: How much mercury is in your Sushi (part 2)?
    An NBCLA investigative report.
    (Published Thursday, May 13, 2010)

    The government says tuna and some other large predatory fish can be high in mercury. The FDA warns pregnant women and children to "limit" or "avoid" high mercury fish because it can harm the nervous system of unborn babies and children. 

    "The average diner should not be concerned about mercury exposure," assures Gavin Gibbons of the national fisheries institute, the organization that represents the fish industry.

    "We feel the focus needs to be on consuming more seafood because Americans already have a diet woefully inadequate when it comes to fish," Gavin said. 

    However, not everyone agrees. 

    "It's an accumulation that's the problem. So the more high mercury fish you eat, the higher your mercury is going to be," warns Dr. Jane Hightower, one of the leading experts on the health effects of eating too much mercury. Hightower cautions patients to watch their mercury intake. 

    NBCLA wanted to see how much a person's mercury levels might fluctuate by eating seafood. So producer Fred Mamoun volunteered to have his blood levels tested before and after eating sushi for a week.

    Mamoun ate one or two tuna rolls a day, plus a couple of pieces of tuna sashimi for seven days straight.

    After sitting down with Hightower to discuss his blood test results, Mamoun discovered that his blood levels had doubled by the end of the week. 

    "You were within the FDA guidelines, but you were still raising your mercury, and you were not at a steady state. In other words, we didn't catch you at peak because it is accumulating," Hightower explained to Mamoun.

    Hightower says a week is not long enough to affect someone's health, and as for long-term exposure to mercury, "It would possibly adversely affect your health. It depends on how much, for how long and genetics."

    Full Investigation: How Much Mercury Is in Your Sushi? (Part 1) | (Part 2) | (Part 3)