How Much Mercury Is in Sushi?

The NRDC app allows you to check sushi for mercury levels and other contaminants, as well as identify safe fish options to consume during pregnancy.

Mercury can pass from mother to fetus during gestation or through breast milk and cause neurodevelopmental issues in young children, making it important to limit high mercury fish and increase consumption of low mercury seafood such as salmon, crab and shrimp.


Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can have detrimental effects on unborn babies, young children and some adults. Therefore, pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should avoid tuna due to its high mercury content; alternative seafood such as shellfish and salmon contain lower mercury concentrations and should therefore be consumed more often to aid their bodies’ ability to rid itself of mercury over time. Selenium found in many foods also plays an important role in mitigating mercury poisoning by binding to it and keeping it out of your system.

The FDA advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume up to 12 ounces of seafood weekly, including two to three servings of low mercury fish such as canned light tuna, salmon, herring, trout and whitefish. For even lower mercury consumption levels, Consumer Reports advises opting for sustainably caught canned sockeye or pink salmon from Alaska which contains heart-healthy omega-3s – these suggestions could lower mercury even further!

Rogers notes that due to tuna’s higher position on the ocean food chain, it absorbs mercury from smaller fish that it consumes. Therefore, its mercury levels tend to be higher than other forms of fish.

Due to its high mercury levels, the FDA advises against eating bluefin tuna (often found in sushi). Instead, consumers are advised to opt for other types of tuna such as yellowfin tuna, white tuna, albacore tuna and canned light tuna which have significantly reduced levels. According to FDA recommendations for children under six should limit themselves to no more than one 3-ounce serving every month, while kids aged 6-12 can consume two 4.5-ounce servings; pregnant women can consume up to three 6-ounce servings each month.


Mercury poisoning during pregnancy can be particularly hazardous, so it’s especially important to opt for small fish such as salmon and anchovies instead of tuna and mackerel that may contain high concentrations of mercury – however even smaller species like these still may contain mercury as they’re lower on the food chain, and are inadvertently taking in mercury from larger sources such as sharks and swordfish. According to FDA recommendations, pregnant or planning-to-get pregnant women should limit their mercury consumption to six ounces weekly.

The FDA provides a list of fish with lower mercury levels; however, where and how often it’s raised/caught may alter these levels. Therefore, it’s wise to consult your healthcare provider about which fish to eat and in what quantity.

Natural Resources Defense Council conducted a study in New Jersey which revealed that many sushi restaurants offer fish with high mercury concentrations. Tuna samples from Manhattan restaurants such as Nobu Next Door, Sushi Seki, Blue Ribbon Sushi and Gourmet Garage all contained mercury concentrations exceeding one part per million; that threshold allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw products from sale.

Fish high in mercury include king mackerel, orange roughy and marlin; therefore the FDA advises pregnant and nursing mothers and young children to limit consumption of these species, along with tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico and swordfish. It should be remembered however, that even though low mercury fish (like salmon) might seem safe to some, they still contain dangerous toxins which build up over time in your body – remember mercury sticks to everything!

Sea Bass

Mercury levels in fish depend on where they lie on the food chain; top predators contain more mercury while bottom feeders have significantly less. Scientists also take into account whether or not its environment has become polluted; an individual who lives near coal-fired power plants might have higher mercury levels than one who resides in cleaner marine environments.

Researchers from Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School conducted interviews with 1,289 members of a university community about their seafood consumption, and collected sushi samples at stores and supermarkets in New Jersey, New York City and Chicago for analysis. On average each person consumed five fish or sushi meals monthly on average; scientists were also able to identify what species of fish was present within each sample and calculate its mercury content.

At Manhattan restaurants Nobu Next Door, Sushi Seki and Blue Ribbon Sushi as well as Gourmet Garage in Queens had mercury concentrations above one part per million — the FDA action level — which means their samples contained mercury levels above this mark. Canned tuna from Nobu Next Door as well as sushi tuna sold elsewhere had lower mercury concentrations but still exceeded it; sushi tuna cans from other restaurants or grocery stores had slightly less.

Consuming fish is an ideal source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and nutrients like iron. Unfortunately, too much high mercury fish consumption can increase one’s methylmercury levels and be toxic to their nervous systems, which is why the FDA advises pregnant and nursing women, babies and young children consuming eight ounces per week of low mercury fish versus high mercury varieties.


No matter if it’s spicy tuna rolls or sushi featuring king crab, shrimp or eel – chances are, you enjoy eating raw fish regularly. But what you may not realize is that depending on what kind of fish is consumed and where it originates can significantly change how much mercury may enter your system.

Recent research published in Biology Letters revealed that restaurant and supermarket-sold bluefin and bigeye tuna contained more mercury than yellowfin tuna bought at stores, likely because larger species such as bluefin tuna need to eat more to sustain energy levels; as such, more mercury accumulates from eating their prey. But according to this research, people can still access omega-3s and protein from sushi staples bought from stores as long as they choose low mercury species like yellowfin tuna.

Mercury levels in sushi may differ depending on how it’s prepared. Certain species, like swordfish or halibut, that are cooked or frozen contain more mercury than those which are either raw, smoked or smoked and frozen due to cooking increasing how much mercury gets released into the air, water and soil from being heated up during processing.

One additional factor to keep in mind when eating sushi is whether or not it contains farmed or wild fish. While farmed fish typically contain higher mercury levels than wild ones, according to NRDC reports that even one bite from any seafood won’t substantially raise your blood mercury level; so this shouldn’t be cause for alarm.


Mercury can build up in your body over time, leading to serious health risks if consumed at inappropriate levels. These effects include tremors, memory problems, muscle weakness and increased sensitivity to heat. Furthermore, excessive mercury exposure may damage kidneys and nervous systems – so choosing wisely when selecting sushi options will greatly decrease risks.

Salmon is relatively low in mercury due to its lower position in the marine food chain and consumption of phytoplankton and small zooplankton with lower mercury concentration. Furthermore, its short life-span relative to larger ocean predators limits how long mercury accumulates in its tissues; other low mercury options include sardines, clams and crab.

However, when it comes to sushi it is wise to avoid large fish such as tuna, yellowtail, bluefin swordfish and sea bass as these contain mercury levels that approach those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for adults weighing 150 pounds. Even six pieces of these types of sushi could contain over 49 micrograms of mercury–more than what the EPA suggests for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers or breastfeeding infants as well as younger children or other vulnerable groups.

Boules suggests when it comes to sushi that your meal should include low mercury options like salmon, crab meat, shrimp and eel from low mercury areas of the sea like Alaska or Europe; she cautions against high mercury seafood such as shark, king mackerel and tilefish from Gulf waters as these contain excessive levels of mercury.

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