Mercury in canned tuna marketed in Cartagena, Colombia, and estimation of human exposure

Food Addit Contam Part B Surveill. 2017 Dec;10(4):241-247. doi: 10.1080/19393210.2017.1323803. Epub 2017 May 31.


The presence of mercury in tuna is ubiquitous, so national authorities should guarantee food safety of canned tuna available on the market, according to legal regulations. The objective of this survey was to assess total mercury (T-Hg) levels in brands of canned tuna marketed in Cartagena, Colombia, and determine fish consumption-based risks after ingestion. For that purpose, 252 cans of tuna were collected, representing 6 brands (A-F), in 2 mediums (water and oil). Mean T-Hg levels were 0.66 ± 0.05 and 0.61 ± 0.05 µg g-1 wet weight, for water and oil, respectively. High T-Hg concentrations were measured in brands B and D. Only brands E and F guaranteed low risk for Hg-related health problems. According to Colombia's legislation, 15.5% of the samples exceeded the maximum level of 1.0 µg g-1 for mercury and 18.3% was higher than limits as recommended by Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organisation (0.5 µg g-1). It was concluded that consumption of canned tuna could represent a high risk for the Colombian population, particularly to vulnerable groups.

Keywords: Fish; canned food; health; pollution.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colombia
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Preservation
  • Food, Preserved / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seafood / analysis*
  • Tuna / metabolism*


  • Mercury