By Brian Rohter
Kudos to the Oregonian Food Day and reporter Leslie Cole for the great story in this mornings paper about the complexities involved in trying to eat healthy and sustainably fished or farmed seafood. We definitely agree with Leslie's bottom line, which is "Taking action is easier than you think. We've ... identified a handful of fish you can bring home without guilt or questions. They're healthful, environmentally sound choices . . . ". Here's the link to the whole story: "A good catch".
There are a couple of other pieces of information that I'd like to share. Leslie points out in the article that we recently had some of our fish tested for mercury content at a local independent laboratory. We did do a round of several tests. The results from the first test really shocked us because, although we were prepared to see elevated mercury counts on the tuna, we didn't expect the levels to be as high as they were. We were also really taken aback at the results for the salmon that we tested since we hadn't heard anything at all about mercury problems in wild Alaskan salmon. Read the Feb. 4 results here.
Based on the uncertainty of the results on the first round of testing, we contracted for a second sample. The tuna came back with essentially the same results and the salmon came back at the levels that we expected. We've been told there was an error in the first salmon sampling process. Read the Feb. 18 results here.
We thought long and hard about what action we should take after the high levels of mercury in the tuna were confirmed. Obviously we want to offer all of our customers as many choices as possible and we certainly are committed to promoting Oregon products, like the local albacore. In the end we decided to be cautious and stop selling those varieties for the time being. We will continue to test on a intermittent basis and if something changes we'll be excited to bring them back. I'm interested to know if you think we made the right decision here or whether we should just share the information and let everyone choose for themselves.
We also figured it would be a good idea to take a look at the mercury levels in the canned tuna that we sell and we were pleasantly surprised to see that all of it came back at levels that are deemed acceptable. Read the Feb. 28 results.
Finally, for folks who have a high degree of interest in making sustainable seafood purchases, I want to remind you of our Sustainable Seafood Program, which we launched in 2003. We use a simple green, yellow and red color coding system in our Seafood Departments to help highlight smarter choices for healthier oceans. You can learn more about it here or by picking up the informational brochures in each of our stores.