New Tests Show Hawaii Fish Jerky Is Safe But Questions Remain


State officials say new test results on mercury levels in blue marlin jerky, a popular snack in Hawaii, show the product is safe to eat.

But not everyone is convinced. Researchers and public health advocates say new information about the danger of mercury needs to be considered.

Hawaii Health Department officials sent samples of the jerky to labs run by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year after a study by a California physician found alarming levels of mercury in the dried fish that is sold throughout stores in Hawaii. The researcher, Jane Hightower, found that mercury levels in marlin jerky were five to 28 times federal safety limits.

But the FDA results don’t corroborate Hightower’s findings. They show that mercury levels in marlin are below the federal safety limits, which is what state officials previously believed. When Hightower's study was released, the state health department said she overestimated the health risk.

The average mercury content in the new samples were slightly above the safety limit of the FDA. However, the methylmercury content — which health officials say is the type of mercury that people need to be concerned about — was found to be much lower, about one-third of the FDA limit and slightly below the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a stricter standard.

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