Really, Consumer Reports? Show Us The Numbers

Consumer Reports new story titled “How Worried Should You Be About Mercury in Your Tuna” is a quintessential example of a news outlet writing its conclusion first and then reverse engineering the story to fit it. 

Consumer Reports says it tested 30 cans of tuna for mercury and was so concerned with the levels it found, recommended consumers limit or avoid the affordable, heart and brain-healthy protein. However, they never share what those levels were in the context of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mercury restrictions and or levels of concern.

Do you know why we suspect they didn’t do that? Here’s our hypothesis – because NONE of the samples they tested came even remotely close to exceeding the FDA’s Action Level and weren’t even in the universe of what the FDA considers a level of harm. 

We saw some of Consumer Reports’ results, and in one set of tests, the highest level of mercury found in a “light” can of tuna was .58 ppm, and the highest level of mercury found in an “albacore” can was .66 ppm. The FDA’s Action Level, or the limit for mercury in fish, is 1.0ppm. Neither of these levels begin to even approach this limit and are completely safe to consume.

However, more importantly, we note that Consumer Reports never even talks about the Action Level and also never explains that the Action Level includes a 10-fold safety factor:

“FDA’s Action Level of 1.0 ppm for methyl mercury in fish was established to limit consumers’ methyl mercury exposure to levels ten times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.”

Cans that include tuna with mercury levels of .58ppm or .66ppm are nowhere near the absolute lowest levels FDA itself associates with “adverse effects.” In a bout of journalistic malpractice Consumer Reports never explains this. And it’s not because Consumer Reports didn’t know this, oh they did, because we told them on January 11, 2023. They just chose to leave this vital information out of the report, opting instead to peddle their obscured findings in search of exactly what they’re getting today; sensational headlines. An embarrassing failure of journalistic ethics or a strategic deception? You decide.

We have an idea. Why don’t author, Lauren Kirchner and the Consumer Reports team, publish a blinded chart that shows all 30 of their samples in parts per million of mercury found, as compared to FDA’s 10-fold safety factor and then let consumers decide if they’re concerned about mercury in canned tuna. Or better yet — just send NFI the test results and we’ll do it for you. You’ve got our email… we can wait.