Advisers urging caution with tuna

Sunday, July 28, 2002

BELTSVILLE, Md. -- Pregnant women who eat too much tuna risk exposing their unborn babies' developing brains to possibly harmful mercury levels, but there is no need for the women to cut the highly nutritious fish out of their diets altogether, a government advisory panel said.

That was the message last week from the advisers as they grappled with exactly what the Food and Drug Administration should tell women.

"Nobody wants to tell people to stop eating tuna," said the panel chairman, Sanford Miller of Virginia Tech University. "We're trying to balance the very positive virtues of fish, including tuna fish, with the harms. It's a very hard balance to make."

Indeed, tuna provides high-quality protein for pregnant women who might instead choose higher-fat bologna, said panelist Joseph Hotchkiss, a Cornell food scientist.

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