SELENIUM is an element that is essential for many functions in our bodies. Specifically selenium has been scientifically identified:
- To foster growth and development
- As a powerful antioxidant with cancer prevention properties
- As essential for normal thyroid hormone and immune functioning
Recent studies also indicate that SELENIUM is especially important for the brain, heart, and our immune system health.
As it turns out there is a very high affinity between mercury and selenium. Wherever they exist together they chemically bind and neither the mercury nor selenium are then bio-available. The actual process is that selenium acts as an antidote and counteracts any mercury found in the food, as long as the selenium content is greater or equal to the mercury content.
“Selenium is the key to understanding mercury exposure risks. Scientists have discovered that if a body has sufficient selenium to maintain proper function, the risks from mercury are mitigated.”
As oceans are rich in selenium, most ocean fish contain more moles of selenium than of mercury. Therefore, the consumption of such fish provides a natural protection against mercury toxicity, by virtue of their high selenium content.
Canadian Albacore Tuna has been extensively studied and consistently tests amongst the lowest in the world for mercury.
Testing since 2003 has shown an average concentration of 0.165 milligrams per gram (ppm).
As a result of our intensive ongoing sampling program and an international search of data related to Canadian Albacore Tuna in 2011 the British Columbia Ministry of Health and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control revised, and upgraded, their recommendations related to limits for consumption http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile68m.stm
The BC Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Disease Control have developed new recommendations for choosing and eating fish, specifically for British Columbians. By choosing fish low in mercury, you can get the health benefits of fish while minimizing the amount of mercury.
In British Columbia, we are in a unique position in that our albacore tuna fleet captures young (2-3 years of age) fish almost exclusively, at a unique time in their live before they have accumulated any significant amount of background mercury. In fact, our BC/Canadian albacore tuna, as well as those caught along the Pacific Coast of North America, have for years consistently tested amoungst the lowest in the world for mercury in albacore tunas.
“Fish is part of a healthy diet. Fish provides many nutrients such as protein, while being low in saturated fat. Fish also provides healthy omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart and brain. Omega-3 fats are important especially for the brain and eye development of babies and children. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends at least 2 servings of fish each week for children 2 years of age and older and for adults. Choose fish low in mercury. One Serving is equal to 75 g (2.5 oz.) or 125 mL (1/2 cup)
|Fish Low in Mercury
|Salmon, wild or farmed, fresh, frozen or canned, Shrimp, Prawn, Rainbow trout, Atlantic mackerel, Sole or Dover Sole, Albacore Tuna, fresh, frozen and canned, from B.C. or Canada
||Children 6 to 24 months
|Children 2 to 12 years
|Girls and women of childbearing age, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.
|Men (ages 12 and older) and women after childbearing years
As a result, Canadian Albacore Tuna is acknowledged as one of the world’s tuna with the lowest mercury content and is now widely accepted internationally, especially in Europe, where concern over any impurities is paramount.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Canadian Albacore Tuna has been extensively tested and consistently tests amongst the highest in the world for healthy OMEGA-3 lead.
Since 2000, the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines have recommended that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, particularly fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. These fish contain two omega-3 fatty acids –eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA).
Fish oils are particularly effective in reducing inflammation and can be of great benefit to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis. Daily supplementation with as little as 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA can markedly reduce the number of tender joints and increase the time before fatigue sets in. Some studies have also noted a decrease in morning stiffness and at least two clinical trials concluded that arthritis patients who took fish oils could eliminate or sharply reduce their use of NSAIDs and other arthritis drugs.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been seen to have a direct benefit on heart disease risk in relatively short periods of time (Etherton).
It is estimated that 85% or more of people in the Western world are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and most get far too much of the omega-6 fatty acids. Vegetarian diets, for example, tend to be very high in omega-6, perhaps due to the excess consumption of products containing corn.
What’s Special about Northern Pacific Canadian Albacore Tuna?
Albacore tuna are a highly adapted pelagic species that migrate across entire oceans. As they migrate, they eat up to ¼ of their body weight a day in high oil content fish such as sardines, anchovies, squid, and even pelagic red crab.
As young albacore approach the Pacific coast of North America, they are still quite young, at an age of 3-4 years. As the water warms they gradually move up the California coast traveling past Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia, and in some cases Southern Alaska, following schools of bait fish that they feed upon.
As the bait fish swim north they consume plankton growing in the rich waters off the west coast. As the summer progresses the oil content increases, with the highest oil levels appearing in the fall. The tuna then head south and or west and begin their travels back to their spawning grounds.
Previous studies by Wheeler and Morrissey showed that typically the omega-3 oil content in an albacore is lower towards the tail portion of the fish and higher towards the head and in the “belly flaps”. In this specific study the omega-3 levels were 2.1 g/100g tissue to 3.5 in the belly flaps.
In 2004, the Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation (CHMSF) began testing random samples from the Canadian fishery. Over the past 10 years the average omega-3 oil content has been 4.83 grams per 100 grams of tissue, making the oil content noticeably higher than Sockeye Salmon at 2.7 grams, Farmed Atlantic Salmon at 1.8 grams and Atlantic Cod at 0.1 grams.
It should be noted that albacore tuna caught in the Pacific longline fishery are typically 5-7 years old and have a fat/oil content about 1g per 2 oz of fish while troll-caught Canadian Albacore Tuna at 2-3 years old typically have almost 5 grams per 56.7g of fish.
Canadian Pacific Albacore caught are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and contain the highest oil/fat content of any albacore tuna.
Histamine (Scombroid Poisoning)
Canadian Albacore Tuna has been extensively studied and consistently tests amongst the lowest in the world for histamine.
Scombroid food poisoning is a food-borne illness that results from eating spoiled fish.
While it is quite often misdiagnosed because symptoms resemble an allergic reaction, it is most commonly reported with species such as mackerel, bluefish, mahi-mahi, bonito, sardines, anchovies, and tuna.
The issue is really inadequate refrigeration after the fish has been caught. The reason that tuna is sometimes implicated is that tuna are not a cold blooded fish – they generate heat by constantly swimming and once a tuna is caught it must be chilled immediately.
We will come back to this further on in our discussion but first, for those that like to know the science…
Highly migratory fish, such our Northern Pacific Canadian Albacore Tuna, swim constantly. As a direct result, their muscles are constantly being rebuilt from the amino acids that circulate in the blood in the form of the amino acid histadine. Upon the death of the fish, bacterial decomposition rapidly converts this histadine to histamine, which is toxic to mammals and may result in an illness referred to as Scombroid poisoning if consumed.
Histamine (or scombroid) poisoning is one of the most significant causes of illness associated with seafood, although frequently misdiagnosed as “Salmonella spp. infection”. Histamine is formed in spoiling fish by certain bacteria that are able to de-carboxylate the amino acid histidine. Although some bacteria are present in the normal microbial flora of live fish, most of them seem to be derived from post-catching contamination on fishing vessels, at the processing plant or in the distribution system (Lehane and Olley, 2000). The fish are non-toxic when caught, but there is an increase in histamine content as bacterial numbers increase. Unfortunately, foods containing unusually high levels of histamine may not appear to be outwardly spoiled and cooking does not destroy the histamine (Lehane, 2000).
Improper storage of the fishes, usually at temperatures above 20°C, appears to be the most important predisposing factor. The organisms most commonly involved are Proteus spp., Clostridium spp., Escherichia spp., Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Morganella morganii, followed by V. parahaemolyticus and V. alginolyticus (Russell and Maretic, 1986; Kim et al., 2001). The optimum temperature for supporting growth of prolific histamine formers was found to be 25°C, but at 15°C a significant level of histamine was still produced in fish muscle (Kim et al., 2001).
Histamine formation in fish can be prevented by the rapid cooling of fish after catching and adequate refrigeration during handling and storage (Gingerich et al., 1999; Kim et al., 2001).
Scombroid poisoning is geographically diverse and many species have been implicated. Foods with histamine concentrations exceeding 50 mg per 100 g of food are generally considered to be hazardous (Taylor et al., 1989). Symptoms of scombroid poisoning include vomiting, dizziness, rapid pulse, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, swelling, and others. Antihistamines can bring about immediate relief of symptoms with the patient generally recovering within 24 hours.
The Situation in British Columbia, Canada
Scombroid poisoning is not a significant issue in Canadian fisheries due to the prevalence of cold water and air temperatures, and our rigorous system of handling, regulation and inspection.
Under our own CHMSF PLATINUM QUALITY ASSURANCE PROGRAM, the protocol for handling (100% of all of our fish) is quite specific:
- Our Canadian fishing fleet uses only troll fishery using barbless hooks. Each fish is caught individually alive (this is unlike many tropical fisheries where tuna are caught on a longline and could theoretically be dead in the warm tropical waters for some time before being landed).
- Once landed each fish is put into an on-board iced chill tank to immediately reduce the temperature of the fish.
- Once chilled the tuna is individually blast frozen, onboard, at temperatures down to -28 C. and held at that temperature until processed.
- As well, primarily to retain quality by reducing migration of oils in the fish, but also for safety reasons, our Canadian Albacore Tuna are typically processed into loins while still frozen. This means that tuna from the time it is caught to the time it reaches the restaurant, store, or cannery remains frozen throughout.
Under government regulation, once the fish is received by the store, or restaurant – albacora tuna once again remains frozen until final preparation. Even so Canadian Seafood HACCP Regulations require that:
- All fish must be refrigerated to 4°C (40°F) or cooler at all times.
- All fish that have a temperature of > 4°C (40°F) should be rejected- Review delivery vehicle temperature logs.
- Any fish that has been thawed should be used within 48 hours at refrigerated temperatures.
In Canada between 1975-1981 there was a total of 6 cases of scombroid poisoning. Of those cases one was caused by cheddar cheese and the other 5 by fish including ahi tuna and smoked mackerel, and mahi mahi.
In 2007 one case of scombroid poisoning from ahi tuna was attributed to temperature abuse before cooking in a restaurant environment.
Occasionally, in some non-Canadian ethnic markets a small volume of customers prefer to purchase fresh albacore tuna from local fishermen. As mentioned above, however, this is not the case in Canada where 100% of commercial tuna is BLAST FROZEN onboard the vessel.
In Canada, due to our CHMSF PLATINUM QUALITY ASSURANCE PROGRAM and strict adherence to provincial and federal HACCP regulations, there has never been a case of scombroid (histamine) poisoning reported and attributed to albacore tuna in the history of the fishery.
CANADIAN ALBACORE TUNA TEST RESULTS: RADIATION NOT DETECTED
As you are aware, there is ongoing interest/concern by the general public, potential buyers, and media in regards to issues related to contamination of seawater and possibly seafood species as a result of the catastrophe that be fell Japan in 2011 and subsequent issues related to the Fukushima spill.
In order to assure the public, that troll-caught albacore tuna from our fisheries were not affected, and to provide baseline data, the Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation tested samples from 2010 (from storage), 2011-2014 (from each year’s fishery) for residues of any radioactive contamination. ALL tests showed radioactive residues were NOT DETECTED in any samples.
Under “Chain of Custody” documentation, the samples were submitted to, and tested by, SRC Analytical Division of the Saskatchewan Research Council’s Analytical Laboratories in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Test methods and data were validated by the Laboratory’s Quality Assurance Program and testing routines and methods followed recognized procedures from sources such as:
- Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater APHA AWWA WEF;
- Environment Canada;
- US EPA; and CANMET
The results have been authorized as follows:
- Organic results authorized by Pat Moser, Supervisor SRC Analytical Div.;
- ICP results authorized by Keith Gipman, Supervisor, SRC Analytical Div.;
- Inorganic and Radiochemistry results authorized by Jeff Zimmer, Supervisor, SRC Analytical Div.; and,
- SLOWPOKE-2 results authorized by Dave Chorney.
We are pleased to inform you that for ALL of the samples tested in 2014 the results have shown:
- Iodine-131 < 0.005 < 0.003 < 0.003
- Cesium-137 < 0.003 < 0.002 < 0.002
- Cesium-134 < 0.002 < 0.003 < 0.002
Once again ALL samples tested for these residues indicate “that radiation residues were not detected at levels representing the lowest detection limits achievable for Gamma Spectroscopy”.
We are pleased then to report 100% of all samples of albacore tuna caught in Canadian waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean, tested for radioactive residue between 2010 (pre event) to our current fishery, in 2014, showed no residues detected at the lowest detection limits achievable.
As a result, Canadian Albacore Tuna is acknowledged as one of the world’s tuna with the lowest Mercury content and is now widely accepted internationally, especially in Europe, where concern over any impurities is paramount.
Canadian Albacore Tuna has been extensively tested and consistently tests amongst the lowest in the world for lead.
Testing begun in 2015 shows an average concentration of ______ milligrams per gram (ppm).
Lead is an environmental contaminant that occurs naturally and, to a greater extent, from activities such as mining and smelting and battery manufacturing. Lead is a metal that occurs in organic and inorganic forms, with the inorganic form being an issue in some environments.
There have been regulatory controls on lead in paints, gasoline, food cans and pipes since the 1970’s. With these controls in place, food now remains one of the major sources of lead. In large scale testing of food supplies in Europe between 2003-2009, containing almost 100,000 samples, 2/3 of all samples had no detectable levels of lead. Those that showed a presence showed that the most important contributors to lead exposure were consumption of cereals (except rice), leafy green vegetables, and tap water.
In people, the concern of lead contamination is its effect on the central nervous system. Of course, such issues are more important in the developing brain of children rather than adults.
Lead in blood is considered to be the best indicator of the concentration of lead in soft tissues, reflecting recent and, to some extent, past exposure, whereas bone lead in vivo reflects the long-term uptake and body burden.
In North America contamination of seafood by lead is not considered a significant issue, especially in marine fish, as compared to freshwater fish.
In Europe, however, due to ongoing concerns related to any contaminant, a new mandate has been issued (Articles 23 and 33 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/202) to continuously collect data related to any chemical contaminants.
As an increasing portion of our Canadian Albacore Tuna exports are destined for Europe, we have begun to proactively add lead to our testing programs under our Quality Management Program. Beginning with tuna caught in the summer of 2015, we will collect and test samples and publish data on this “Health Issue” page.
Stay tuned for our first data results in August, 2015.