One of the few health concerns about eating too much seafood is the levels of mercury that may be present in certain species of fish and which can build up in the body over time when consuming too much high-risk seafood. You can use our guide for estimating mercury levels in your seafood to make choices that will minimize your mercury intake from seafood. That said, anybody who’s concerned with mercury in their seafood will also be concerned about other sources of mercury is lingering in their diet. Chances are if you’re eating processed/pre-packaged foods, you’re getting an extra dose of mercury in your diet.
Recent History of Mercury in the Food Supply
Ten years ago, mercury in high-fructose corn syrup was a serious problem that very few people know about. Dr. Renee Dufault left the FDA and became a whistleblower after the agency blocked her from publishing her research on the mercury levels in these products. Rates of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup may not be as high as they were ten years ago, but they’re still present in many products today.
Moreover, the exact enforcement policies change from one administration to the next, so it’s entirely possible that mercury levels in our food have risen dramatically again over the last couple years. Thus, the problem isn’t that all processed food has mercury, but rather it’s impossible for the average consumer to know which products are safe. Even in a best-case scenario, mercury and other residual heavy metals are still more than likely in many of our food products today, according to Dr. Dufault in this interview from Food Integrity Campaign. This, in turn, makes it difficult for someone experiencing mild symptoms of heavy metal toxicity to know what part of their diet is the culprit.
Individuals and State Governments Making the Biggest Change
Dr. Dufault did offer one glimmer of hope in her interview. Given the unreliableness of federal oversight, state governments are increasingly stepping up. Hawaii and California are among the states at the forefront of progressive food production policies that reduce the heavy metal and chemical content in their food. Otherwise, the goal of reducing mercury in your diet can be the catalyst that leads to bigger changes to your diet. Like cutting out processed foods altogether, or at least dramatically cutting back. By making healthy food choices generally, the minimal amount of mercury in wild-caught seafood isn’t enough to be a serious health threat.
Note: There’s no perfect, intuitive definition of “processed,” especially when it comes to mercury in food. Canned salmon, for example, has lower mercury levels than fresh or frozen salmon and among the lowest levels of mercury for any type of seafood.