Mercury

Mercury is a contaminant found in some foods, including seafood. It is controlled by legislation in the EU.

Seafood Maximum permitted level (mg/kg wet weight)

Muscle meat of: angler fish (Lophius species), Atlantic catfish (Anarhicas lupus), bonito (Sarda sarda), eel (Anguilla species), emperor, orange roughy, rosy soldierfish (Hoplostethus species), grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris), halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), kingklip (Genypterus capensis), marlin (Makaira species), megrim (Lepidorhombus species), mullet (Mullus species), pike (Esox lucius) pink cusk eel (Genypterus blacodes), plain bonito (Orcynopsis unicolor), poor cod (Tricopterus minutes), Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnes coelolepis), rays (Raja species), redfish (Sebastes marinus, S. mentella, S. viviparus), sail fish (Istiophorus platypterus), scabbard fish (Lepidopus caudatus, Aphanopus carbo), seabream or pandora (Pagellus species), shark (all species), snake mackerel or butterfish (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum, Ruvettus pretiousus, Gempylus serpens), sturgeon (Acipenser species), swordfish (Xiphas gladius), tuna (Thunnus species, Euthynnus species, Katsuwonus pelamis)

1.0

All fishery products and muscle meat of fish other than those mentioned above

0.5

Crustaceans: muscle meat from appendages and abdomen. In the case of crabs and crab-like crustaceans (Brachyura and Anomura) it applies to muscle meat from appendages.

0.5

For more details, see the relevant legislation: 1881/2006.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reviewed the safety of inorganic mercury and methyl mercury in all food commodities in the light of newly available data. EFSA adopted the provisional total weekly intake of 4 μg/kg body weight (bw) for inorganic mercury that had been established by the Joint WHO/FAO Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). EFSA propose a tolerable weekly intake for methylmercury of 1.3 µg/kg bw, which is lower than JECFA's 1.6 µg/kg bw.

EFSA's Scientific Opinion on the risk for public health related to the presence of mercury and methylmercury in food is available here.

 

Proposed changes

The European Commission has been working on changes to the legislation dealing with mercury as a seafood contaminant. The proposed legislation will require  Member States to develop specific national consumption advice related to fish consumption to fully achieve the beneficial effects of fish consumption whilst limiting the risks of mercury toxicity. When developing this consumption advice, Member Sates will be urged especially to include the frequency of fish consumption and the fish species consumed.

As new data on mercury levels in a variety of fish species have become available, the proposed legislation also contains new limits for a wider variety of species. The latest version of the proposal contains the following mercury limits:

Fishery products and muscle meat of fish other than the products listed below: 0.5 mg/kg

Cephalopods; marine gastropods; muscle meat of Anchovy (Engraulis spp.), Carp (species belonging to the Cyprinidae family),
Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), European flounder (Platichthys flesus),  Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus), Common dab (Limanda
limanda), Mackerel (Scomber scombrus), European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), Pollock (Pollachius pollachius), Saithe (Pollachius virens), Salmon & Trout (Salmo spp. and Oncorhynchus spp.), Sardine/Pilchard (Dussumieria spp., Sardina spp., Sardinella spp. and Sardinops spp.), Sole (Solea solea), European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), Whiting (Merlangius merlangus), Pangasius or basa (Pangasius bocourti), Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) and Striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalamus): 0.30 mg/kg

Muscle meat of Bonito (Sarda sarda),  Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus), Roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris), Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), Kingklip (Genypterus capensis), Marlin (Makaira spp.), Megrim (Lepidorhombus spp.), Red mullet (Mullus barbatus barbatus), Surmullet (Mullus surmuletus), Pink cusk-eel (Genypterus blacodes), Northern pike (Esox lucius), Aquitanian Pike (Esox aquitanicus), Southern pike (Esox cisalpinus), Plain bonito (Orcynopsis unicolor), Poor cod (Tricopterus spp.), Sail fish (Istiophorus spp.), Silver scabbard fish (Lepidopus caudatus), Black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo), Axillary seabream (Pagellus acarne), Blackspot seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo), Common pandora (Pagellus erythrinus), Snake mackerel (Gempylus serpens), Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum), Oilfish (Ruvettus pretiosus), Sturgeon (Acipenser spp.), Tuna (Thunnus spp., Euthynnus spp., Katsuwonus pelamis), Greater Amberjack (Seriola dumerili), King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), Piked dogfish (Squalus acanthias), Pacific spiny dogfish (Squalus suckleyi): 1.0 mg/kg

Muscle meat of shark  (all species except those listed directly above) and Swordfish (Xiphias gladius): 2.0 mg/kg