finds hazardous levels of mercury in popular Los Angeles sushi restaurants and seafood counters

By May 12, 2010Got Mercury?

Los Angeles, CA-An undercover investigation led by public health advocates and television reporters found alarmingly high levels of mercury at popular sushi restaurants and seafood counters across the Los Angeles Basin.  Twenty percent of the 10 sushi samples and almost one-third of the 23 samples of market fish contained mercury levels exceeding the U.S. Food and Drug (FDA) mercury action level of 1 part per million.  One piece of tuna sushi registered twice the FDA limit and one piece of seafood counter swordfish was three times the limit.  For a detailed report and mercury results please click here. collected tuna sushi from restaurants and swordfish, tuna and salmon from grocery store counters.  The fish samples were tested for methylmercury levels by an accredited laboratory.  Most of the samples were high in mercury, a known neurotoxin dangerous to infants and children and should be avoided by pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant.

“It is clear from this study that eating tuna and swordfish could be harmful to your health,” said Buffy Martin Tarbox, Campaign Coordinator for, based in Forest Knolls, CA.   “Mothers and children should be very concerned about high levels of mercury that are lurking in a seemingly innocent looking piece of tuna sushi. “

All tuna sushi and all fish counter samples, including swordfish, tuna and salmon contained mercury, a troubling finding since eating fish is the number one source of mercury exposure in the United States according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   In its own studies, the EPA has detected mercury in every fish sample within the continental U.S. The EPA has set a mercury action level at 0.5 ppm for recreational fish, half the level of the FDA standard for commercial fish.

“I am concerned that the FDA and the EPA cannot agree on a mercury level for seafood”, added Dr. Chris Pincetich, a toxicologist and marine biologist with the Turtle Island Restoration Network.  “Mercury is high in all tuna and swordfish, and yet the government standards have a long way to go to protect consumers.”

A similar undercover investigation conducted in March 2010 in the San Francisco Bay Area found over forty percent of fish being sold in grocery stores surpassed the FDA’s mercury action level.

The free, easy to use calculator based on U.S. fish-mercury standards at can help guide people towards fish that contain lesser amounts of mercury. According to the calculator, a woman who weighs 140 pounds and eats a six-ounce portion of swordfish will be exposed to a mercury level that is 273 percent above government exposure guidelines.


The FDA has determined that women of childbearing age and young children should not eat swordfish and should limit consumption of tuna due to high mercury levels.  Yet recommended health warning signs were absent from half the seafood counters included in this undercover testing and none were found in any of the sushi restaurants.

Mercury contamination of seafood is a widespread public health problem, especially for women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women and children.  Mercury ingestion can lead to memory loss, developmental and learning disorders, vision loss, heart disease and, in extreme cases, can result in death.

Currently there are no federal legal requirements to warn people about mercury in fish. has been lobbying the California State Legislature, Congress and the FDA to mandate mercury in fish warning signs at grocery stores and restaurants but government has been slow to act.

About works to protect people and the environment from mercury.  Because of the ubiquitous nature of mercury in the environment and because federal and state public health agencies are not doing enough to raise public awareness and protect the public from mercury, developed the free online mercury-in-fish calculators that have received millions of hits since 2002.  For more information visit