Today, The New York Times is reporting the finding of very high levels of mercury in tuna sushi in recent lab tests commissioned by the newspaper from a sampling of 20 Manhattan restaurants and food stores. Included in the study was sushi from some of the most prestigious food palaces, including Drew Nieporent's Nobu Next Door, part of the famed Nobu restaurant chain, as well as the high-end grocer Gourmet Garage.
According to The New York Times, "Tuna samples from the Manhattan restaurants Nobu Next Door, Sushi Seki, Sushi of Gari and Blue Ribbon Sushi and the food store Gourmet Garage all had mercury above one part per million, the action level at which the F.D.A. can take food off the market. (The F.D.A. has rarely, if ever, taken any tuna off the market.) The highest mercury concentration, 1.4 parts per million, was found in tuna from Blue Ribbon Sushi. The lowest, 0.10, was bought at Fairway."
Other critical findings:
Higher-priced blue fin tuna sushi, such as that often served at the most prestigious restaurants, had the higher levels of mercury.
A scientist involved in the study recommended limiting the consumption of tuna sushi suspected of high mercury contamination to no more than once every three weeks.
In a separate study last fall, New Yorkers' mercury blood level was found to be three times higher than the national average, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, especially among Asian-born New Yorkers and the more affluent. It is thought that both groups eat more fish than many other groups in the city.
"Many experts believe the governments warnings on mercury in seafood do not go far enough," according to the NYT.
The disturbing bottom line of the article by noted nutrition expert Marian Burros is that the mercury levels found in NYC restaurants are likely be present in eateries in other parts of the country. And for a population told for years to eat fish for better health, that's a dangerous disappointment indeed.
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