WIC and Chicken of the Sea

June 22, 2006

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s Women, Infants and Children program (commonly known as WIC) is offering up to 26 ounces of canned tuna per month to breastfeeding mothers.

The program reaches over 8 million low-income women and children every month with nutrition counseling and food vouchers. But I guess the nutrition counseling doesn’t include mention that the methylmercury found in tuna is a toxin that is dangerous to human neural development.

(M)ethylmercury does not pass as easily through breast milk as it does through the placenta and the bloodstream, according to Dr. Leo Trasande, the assistant director of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in New York. Halloran from Consumers Union concurs. “For nursing mothers, the issue still exists, but it’s not as extreme,” she says. “Mercury will end up excreted in mother’s milk, but it’s not quite as direct as the passage in the bloodstream from stuff you eat.”

I’m sure those poor moms will be comforted to know that the mercury passing through their breastmilk to their infants is a weaker brew.

The Salon article where I found the WIC info ends with this kicker:

Yet even the most aggressive public-health efforts can’t get at the root of the real problem — the pollution from coal-fired power plants that’s causing more mercury to show up on our dinner plates.

Lest we forget what the real problem is.