• Safety regulations for pregnant women and children

By Andrew Atkinson Leader Exclusive

MADRID based Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has reviewed its safety regulations for pregnant women and young children, regards to the consumption of certain fish, due to the rise in Mercury levels.

Bluefin Tuna, Swordfish and Shark are deemed to have high Mercury concentration, and expectant women, and those who are breastfeeding, are said to be vulnerable.

It is also reported by AESAN that children, aged under 10, are also vulnerable to Mercury levels in certain fish.

The development of the central nervous system, after direct consumption; through the placenta and breast milk, can be affected by Mercury.

Various fish – including predatory – have a percentage of Mercury pollutants, related to their position within the food chain.

AESAN have recommended consumption guidelines since 2011, for certain species of fish, for certain age groups.

New scientific and technical information has improved apace and AESAN continuously review Mercury level issues, in fish species.

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) an autonomous Agency of Spain, attached to the Ministry of Health and Consumption, undertake the highest degree of safety and promote the health of citizens, reducing the risks of foodborne or foodborne illnesses. AESAN also ensure the effectiveness of food control systems.

Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition AESAN is the top reference in Spain for any matter related to food safety.

In 2014, Royal Decree 19/2014, of January 17, was consolidated with the National Institute of Consumption giving rise to the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition.

In Spain, certain population-based studies have shown high blood mercury (Hg) levels, due to the high consumption of fish.

Some studies have stated that one of the most consumed fish in Spain is canned tuna. Different Spanish organisms consider that it is safe to consume canned tuna, as it supposedly has a low mercury content, particularly in light tuna.

In Spain light tuna is mainly yellowfin and bigeye tuna. In other countries it is mainly skipjack tuna. One study reportedly analysed 36 cans of the most popular brands in Spain.

It examined the influence of the type of tuna, packaging medium (olive oil, sunflower seed oil, water or marinade), different brands, prices and expiration dates.

Mercury concentrations (mg/kg) were measured by atomic absorption spectrometry and thermal decomposition amalgamation.

The medians observed were (mg/kg): light tuna: 0.314; IQR: 0.205-0.594, white tuna: 0.338; IQR: 0.276-0.558, skipjack: 0.311; IQR: 0.299-0.322, frigate tuna: 0.219; IQR 0.182-0.257 and mackerel: 0.042; IQR 0.029-0.074.

It was found statistically significant differences between white tuna, light tuna and mackerel (p = 0.004); light tuna and mackerel (p = 0.002) and white tuna and mackerel (p = 0.006).

No differences were found between white tuna and light tuna, or among packaging medium, brands, prices or expiration dates.

InAugust 2019 is was reported in Spain, certain population-based studies have shown high blood mercury (Hg) levels, due to the high consumption of certain fish.

The limit of 0.500 mg/kg of mercury in canned tuna was exceeded by the following percentages of the cans: 33.3% of light tuna, 16.7% of white tuna, and 0% of Skipjack, frigate tuna and mackerel. The mercury content of the cans of Spanish light tuna that were analysed was variable and high.

The results of this particular study indicate that stricter regulation of Hg in canned tuna is necessary.