Feb 28 â€" Low-mercury fish label debuts in Northern California

To date, 44 states have issued mercury-related fish advisories. Thirty-three states advise that certain fish from specific water bodies are not be consumed by anyone. But for Northern Californians there may be a reprieve:  Pacific Seafood Group, a large fish wholesaler, has partnered with Holiday Quality Foods, a chain of 19 grocery stores in rural Northern California, to test-market fish labeled as low-mercury.The SF Chronicle reports.

Fish to be sold under the new Safe Harbor brand will be tested for mercury before being packaged, and only those with mercury levels well below the FDA-recommended level (one part per million) will make the cut. However, at least half of the fish tested are expected to be rejected – which really is scary. The point of the testing is to provide more information on each label of packaged fish to give consumers more information, and hopefully more confidence in buying more fish. For now, Holiday Foods will absorb the price of the testing instead of passing it along to the consumer. So the good news is we are getting more assurance about eating ‘safe’ fish, and we won’t be losing any money in the process.

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Mercury pollution mostly comes from industrial sources like coal-fired power plants and incinerators. When released into the air, it can settle into surface water, where it accumulates in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water convert the mercury into methylmercury, which is highly toxic when concentrated. Fish absorb methylmercury from water as they feed on aquatic organisms, and the larger, longer-lived fish accumulate methylmercury in their muscle tissue, moving up the food chain to humans.