Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Update on Tuna Testing

You might recall that several weeks ago we tested all species of tuna that we sell to have a better understanding of their mercury content. The tests showed that both our imported and local tuna had mercury levels higher than deemed safe by Physicians for Social Responsibility (although within the FDA’s acceptable level). We (and most of the local fishing community) were shocked by the results from the local albacore, because other testing has been done on a fairly frequent basis and, while mercury levels in imported tuna have been known to be high, the local albacore has generally been considered safe. We ran a retest on the local albacore and it came back at the same high levels. To play it safe we decided to pull all of our tuna until we had a better grasp of the whole situation. Earlier this week we tested a different lot of local albacore tuna and it came back with mercury levels well within the safe standards. You can follow the whole saga and find links to all of the results in the blog entries below this one.

This morning I received the results from another round of testing from a different sample of albacore tuna from the original lot; a different fish, but from the same catch. I’m happy to tell you that the result is .16 mercury parts per million. This is very different from the outcome of the testing in the original lot and these mercury levels are considered normal and safe. Read the results here. A second sampling, with a second lab, returned results ranging from .20-.27 parts per million. Read the results here.

The other sample was from imported ahi tuna. The ahi had come back at unacceptable mercury levels in its first round of tests also. This time the ahi’s mercury level was at .14 parts per million, which is in the safe range.

Confused? So are we. In my original post about this issue on March 4th, I asked folks to weigh in and help us decide what position we should take in terms of offering this fish for sale; should we pull some or all of it (particularly the imported tuna) because of uncertainty, or should we just share the information that we have and let everyone decide for themselves if they want it?

Based on the feedback that we’ve received and on the wild variance in the test results, we’ve come to the decision to bring all these species back into our stores as soon as possible. We will continue to post the results of the testing that we will be doing on an ongoing basis.

As for me, I don’t eat any meat or poultry so seafood is a big part of my diet. Eileen and I have salmon and tuna for dinner regularly. Going forward we’re going to stay away from the imported tuna and only eat the local albacore. - Brian

Monday, March 10, 2008

Update on tuna testing. Looks good so far!

I'm happy to report that the third round of testing that we had done on the Oregon albacore tuna has come back and shows mercury levels well within the acceptable levels established by all the various monitoring organizations, including the FDA and Physicians for Social Responsibility. You can take a look at the results here. This tuna is from a different lot than the tuna that we had tested a couple of weeks ago, although it was tested at the same lab. Within the next couple of days we expect to get the results of the other two pending tests and we'll let you know the outcome as soon as we have them. It's our hope that they'll both show that the Oregon albacore will have acceptable mercury levels, that we'll be able to call the high levels in the first lot an anomaly and we'll feel comfortable putting this great product that we've been promoting for so many years back in our seafood cases.

As you might imagine, we've had quite a few interactions with all sorts of folks from the Oregon fishing community in the last week or so, and even though some of the conversations have been somewhat heated, we're feeling really good about the direction that we're all headed. I think we're going to end up with a comprehensive program that helps ensure the safety of the seafood that we're offering to our customers and at the same time helps support our local fisheries.

This afternoon we had a conference call with representatives from Oregon State University, the Oregon Albacore Commission, the Seafood Consumer Center, Pacific Seafood and others. The purpose of our conversation was to brainstorm an on-going, third party testing program that would sample our tuna on an ongoing basis. Our intention is to share the results of these tests with our customers so they will be able to make informed decisions about the seafood they choose to eat. Each of the participants on the call agreed to go back to their organization and to ask their colleagues for suggestions on the most effective way to make this happen. We agreed to regroup later this week and I'll update you on the status then.

By the way, I had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch today--made with Oregon albacore tuna from Local Ocean Seafoods. It was delicious.