Sunday, December 9, 2007

USDA kicks canned tuna from WIC

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) drops toxic albacore tuna from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), but refuses to drop “light tuna” despite mercury risks.

Albacore tuna is high in toxic methylmercury, which can cause women and children brain and nervous system damage. Albacore tuna averages 0.383 parts per million (ppm) of mercury. In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised women and children to limit their consumption albacore tuna because of the risks. In California, the seafood mercury advises women and children to also avoid tuna commonly served as sushi, ahi, or tuna steaks. Fortunately, albacore tuna will no longer put low-income families at risk when they receive food through the WIC program.

There is an addition positive outcome after health advocacy campaigns contacted the USDA regarding this rule: After three decades, low-income women and children will no longer be forced to pick only tuna when looking for healthy canned seafood options. Now, the USDA can chose from salmon, sardines, and mackerel as low-mercury seafood options – getting the benefits of seafood without the risks associated with mercury in albacore tuna.

You can read the new rule online:

Despite the USDA’s wise decision to drop albacore, the USDA will continue to offer “light tuna” to mothers who breastfeed. Canned light tuna averages 0.118 ppm of mercury, which is nearly 10 times more mercury than sardines (0.016 ppm) and more than canned salmon, which contains no detectable levels of mercury. This is an unnecessary risk for low-income mothers and their nursing children when alternatives exist that carry little or no risk.

The USDA program will continue to put WIC recipient families at risk as long as canned light tuna is kept as an option. The failing tuna industry should not be subsidized at the expense of women and children in the US. Avoid buying canned tuna and speak out against this portion of the interim rule for WIC food packages.


Please submit your comments today to ask the USDA to remove light tuna from the WIC program and to support the inclusion of other no-mercury or low-mercury canned fish options for low-income women who are breastfeeding. Please submit your comments before the rule goes into effect on February 8, 2008.


Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to, select ‘‘Food and Nutrition Service,’’ from the agency drop-down menu, then click ‘‘Submit.’’ In the Docket ID column, select FNS–2006–0037 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.