Salmon contains dangerous amounts of mercury

Which foods are contaminated with heavy metals?

totalmercury is consumed around 55% from animal and 45% from plant-based foods. The particularly problematic methyl mercury (organic mercury) is mainly absorbed from fish and seafood.

In all other foods, mercury is predominantly in inorganic form, which is less dangerous for human health.

Fish that are potentially more contaminated include sharks, jackfish, eels, wolffish, swordfish, halibut, pike, monkfish and tuna. On the other hand, plaice, herring and saithe, for example, are usually only slightly contaminated. These fish in particular, which are consumed in large quantities, can make a major contribution to mercury absorption, even if they are only slightly contaminated.

According to the Max Rubner Institute (MRI), the mercury content of most of the fish marketed in Germany is below the maximum levels, especially in fish from the North Atlantic. Exceptions are large and old specimens of tuna, white halibut or swordfish. Such fish are rare and are examined before they can be traded.

Canned tuna offered in Germany is primarily made from younger fish. However, the results of the investigation show that a few samples nevertheless have mercury levels that approach the maximum permissible levels.

Fish from aquaculture are usually harmless.

Basically, old fish are more heavily contaminated with methylmercury than young ones. Predatory fish (e.g. tuna) are also more contaminated than non-coarse fish (e.g. sardines, bream).

To reduce the absorption of mercury it is recommended:

  • Wash and / or peel fruit and vegetables thoroughly because dust containing heavy metals can be deposited on the surface of fruit and vegetables.
  • Do not consume more than 250 g wild mushrooms (based on fresh weight) per week (unlike green plants, mushrooms have the ability to accumulate heavy metals).
  • Seldom eat offal, especially those of wild animals.
  • Women who want to have children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and small children should rarely consume the fish species at the end of the food chain and should prefer less contaminated fish species. These are usually z. B. Alaskan wild salmon, mackerel, herring or saithe and fish from farmed ponds, z. B. Trout and carp.

cadmium is present in both vegetable and animal foods due to its widespread occurrence in soils. Therefore, the absorption of the heavy metal cannot be completely avoided. A varied selection of foods is recommended. Then more heavily contaminated foods alternate automatically with less contaminated ones. In addition, a good supply of nutrients is more likely to be guaranteed.

Very high cadmium levels are often measured in offal, seafood, algae (be careful with food supplements), oil seeds (such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds), certain types of mushrooms and dark chocolate.

However, the main contributors to the overall pollution are products that are consumed in large quantities and have only a low or average cadmium content, such as vegetables and cereal products.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet outweigh the potential disadvantages. So if you eat a lot of vegetables and grains, you shouldn't change your eating habits.


Gasoline has long been the main cause of lead pollution. With the introduction of unleaded petrol, it has decreased significantly. The heavy metal is released into the air through industrial exhaust gases and can be deposited as lead-containing dust on plant-based foods.

However, mussels and mussel products in particular are more heavily loaded with lead. Here, too, the limit values ​​are rarely reached or exceeded.

older user comments from 2020 and before

Manfred, on October 13th, 2020, 10:12 am
It is interesting that tuna in particular is often heavily polluted. I would only eat farmed fish. Of course, you cannot have every food chemically examined before consumption. However, regular checks provide security.

Wronka, on October 28th, 2020, 1:19 pm
Unfortunately, the omega3 content of farmed fish is reduced due to the feeding. So the health benefits of eating fish decrease because of its high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and low levels of omega 6.


Editorial staff:
The omega-3 fatty acid content of the feed in farmed salmon has decreased, that is correct. However, farmed salmon usually still has more omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon.

We have described more about this here in the forum.

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