Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is Canned Tuna Safe for Toddlers?

I used to love canned tuna. I can remember my mother making tuna sandwiches for lunch, and it remained a comfort food into adulthood. All that time, I believed that I was enjoying a food that was also very healthy for me. However, I gave canned tuna up years ago after hearing warnings about the mercury levels contained in it. And until this week, I have not dared to serve it to my child. I have been downright paranoid about mercury poisoning, and for good reason.

Consider this information taken from Health Canada: A child's developing nervous system is particularly sensitive to methyl mercury. Depending on the level of exposure, the effects can include a decrease in I.Q., delays in walking and talking, lack of coordination, blindness and seizures. (Note: Methyl mercury is the type of mercury found in fish that is the cause of concern.)

Methyl mercury is greater in fish which are higher in the food chain: tuna is one of these. Does that mean it should be avoided altogether? This was my previous thinking. But recently I have been reading about the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in child brain development. Fish, as most of us know, is a very good source of this.

So how much tuna is safe? The U.S Environmental Protection Agency advices that children "eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week" of canned light tuna. Since albacore ("white") tuna contains more mercury than canned light tuna, children should eat no more than 6 ounces per week. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has interpreted information about mercury from the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA. It has created a table that shows how much (of both kinds) of canned tuna is safe to eat for your child's weight. It can be found at:

Health Canada, on the other hand, makes no recommendations on the restriction of canned light tuna. For canned albacore tuna, they recommend that a child between the ages of 1 and 4 get no more than 75g per week (1/2 a cup).

Taking these recommendations into consideration, I finally served Noah and Aidas tuna sandwiches today. They wouldn't touch the tuna! Still, this isn't saying a whole lot since their tastes seem to change from week to week.

I would really like to look into different recipes with foods that contain omega 3's, that a picky toddler would approve of.  "The best sources for omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, canola oil and soy."


  1. I dont know how you do it?!!! I also have a homedaycare. I really dont blog about it that much. I am finding lately to be extremely stresses with it. I take care of 4 kids plus my own 2. 18 mos, 2 1/2, 5, 8, 9, and 12. I find it very hard to keep them all busy since they are on differnt levels. Its been easier in the summer with the pool and the backyard. Its even harder on rainy days. I tke them to parks, cheap bowling, free movies. But I still dont know how you can handle all those toddlers. following you from mbc check me out

  2. Sounds like you have quite the crowd! It must be difficult to have such a range. I would rather have a bunch of toddlers!I actually have it pretty easy for the summer. I only have one other toddler to look after on most days. Some days I have 2 others. Once September starts, it will be 3 toddlers plus my son. The hardest part really is the clean-up from meals. I love being with them and seeing them learn new things. And I love to see them being silly!