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Canned fish: name that tuna.

Sticky blood. It's not something you want.

The stickier your blood, the greater the odds that a fatal clot will form if a fatty plaque happens to rupture inside one of your arteries (see "A Fish Tale," May 1994, p.8).

And how do you make your blood less sticky?

According to some researchers, by eating the omega-3 fats that are found almost exclusively in fish.

For many of us, of course, "fish" means something we catch with a can opener--in other words, tuna. Here's what's below the lid of your tuna and other canned seafood.


If you're looking to max out on omega-3s, head for the fattier fish.

Herring, kippers (they're little smoked herrings), and sardines have the most. They average anywhere from about a half-gram to two grams of omega-3s in a modest two-ounce serving. That's like taking from two to seven MaxEPA fish oil capsules--up to a day's supply.

Don't bother getting your sardines in sild (fish) oil. The half-gram of omegas in every teaspoon comes wrapped in four grams of other fat. That's fat (and calories) you don't need.

Fans of red or pink salmon or mackerel are in luck, too. A serving of any of them contains about a gram of omega-3s.

But fattier fish is ... well ... fattier. It's one thing if the extra fat comes from the fish. When manufacturers fill the can with vegetable oil or cream sauce, you've got to worry. Sardine and herring fans have to be especially careful.

Two ounces of Ocean Prince Sardines in Spring Water, for instance, contain one gram of fat. Multiply that by five for the Ocean Prince Sardines in Vegetable Oil.

To thoroughly confuse low-fat-seekers, some sardines are naturally far fattier than others. A serving of Reese Smoked Sardines in Water, for example, contains 11 grams of fat. Ocean Prince in Water has just one gram. Why the big difference? Fish from colder waters--like the brislings smoked by Reese--need the extra fat to keep from freezing.

Way back in the premandatory-nutrition-labeling era (in other words, last month), you wouldn't have had a clue. Now all you have to do is read the label. (There still may be some old ones swimming around.)


Sardines and herring may be interesting, but tuna's where it's at.

Unfortunately, tuna isn't among the omega-3 champions. A serving of white tuna in water contains a bit less than a half-gram of omegas--a little more than one MaxEPA capsule. That's not too bad. Light tuna has far less.

Other than omega-3s, there's little difference nutritionally between white or light, solid or chunk. It's a matter of taste.

The major choice is tuna in water vs. tuna in oil. And that's really no choice. Even if you drain the can, the oil adds three to five grams of fat and 40-or-so calories to each petite two-ounce serving. That's about a third of a standard-size can.

And while you might be tempted to pay the extra 40 cents or so for a can of low-sodium tuna, don't waste your money. Make your own.

Ten years ago, scientists at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, figured that about three-quarters of the sodium goes down the drain when you hold the separated contents of a can of chunk light tuna in a strainer under running water for a minute.

That makes it about equal to the low-sodium brands.


"We have the best filth analysts in the world."

That's George Hoskin, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Science and Applied Technology Division. Hoskin was taking umbrage at an article in Consumer Reports magazine in 1992 that charged that half the cans of tuna it tested contained "insect parts," "hairs," "fish scales," and "feather barbules."

"We haven't found a problem," says Hoskin.

And, distasteful though filth may be, it doesn't seem to present any danger to the consumer, since "canning sterilizes everything," as Bumble Bee spokesman Vahan Serpekian puts it.


Mercury is highly toxic, and even small amounts can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in infants and fetuses.

Fortunately, recent surveys by the FDA have truned up low levels in tuna. Last year, the feds found an industry-wide average of 0.17 parts per million (ppm). That's about one-sixth of the maximum amount allowed (1.00 ppm).

Even so, pregnant or nursing women should limit themselves to no more than a half pound of tuna a week. Most other healthy people probably don't have to worry.

And while studies show that some fresh salmon is contaminated with highly toxic PCBs, all the salmon that's canned for sale in the U.S. comes from Alaskan waters, where PCBs aren't a problem.

From Herring to Eternity

Only products without added oil, milk, or cream qualified for a "Best Bite." We also set an upper limit of 300 milligrams of sodium and 100 mg of cholesteros in a two-ounce serving (that knocked out shrimp).

What's more, for fish that come both with and without bones, we eliminated the boneless versions. That's because where there's bones there's calcium--anywhere from ten percent (salmon) to 18 percent (sardines) of the Daily Value. Within each category, products are ranked from least fat to most. (Fat numbers are rounded to the nearest gram.)
Seafood Fat Sodium
(2 ounces, drained*) (g) (mg)
Gefilte Fish, Mackerel, Salmon, Tuna,
White Fish (44 to 110 cals.)
Tuna, light or white, in water, low sodium(1) 1 41
Tuna, light or white, in water(1) 1 238
Salmon, pink, skinless, boneless(1) 2 205
White fish(1) 2 254
Gefilte fish, low sodium(1) 3 32
Gefilte fish(1) 3 236
Salmon, pink(1) 4 235
Jack mackerel(1) 4 240
Tuna, white, in oil(1) 4 250
Salmon, red(1) 6 235
Tuna, light, in oil(1) 6 247
Sardines (62 to 174 cals.)
Ocean Prince Sardines in Spring Water 1 93
Ocean Prince Sardines in Tomato 2 497
Chicken of the Sea Sardines in Water 3 320
Reese Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Water 4 99
Crown Prince Sardines in Tomato Sauce 4 170
Geisha Sardines in Tomato Sauce 4 170
Underwood Sardines in Oil 5 205
Ocean Prince Sardines in Vegetable Oil 5 296
Beach Cliff Sardines in Tomato Sauce 6 208
Ocean Prince Sardines in Mustard 6 212
Beach Cliff Sardines in Water 6 336
Crown Prince Skinless & Boneless
Sardines in Vegetable Oil 8 205
Crown Prince Norway Sardines in Tomato 9 125
Crown Prince Norway Sardines in Sild Oil 10 180
Crown Prince Norway Sardines in
Sild Oil, No Salt Added 11 36
Reese Smoked Sardines in Water 11 51
Reese Smoked Sardines in Mustard Sauce 12 421
Crown Prince Brisling Sardines in Olive Oil 13 150
Reese Smoked Sardines in Garlic Sauce 15 190
Herring, Kippers (80 to 140 cals.)
Elf Herring in Cocktail Sauce 2 1,040
Skansen Herring in Wine Sauce 3 650
Elf Herring in Wine Sauce 4 360
Skansen Herring in Sour Cream 5 500
Vita Herring in Sour Cream 6 516
Vita Herring Rollmops 6 988
Reese Smoked Kipper Snacks 7 228
Gunkel Herring Fillets in Tomato-Sauce 7 275
Gunkel Herring Fillets in Mustard-Sauce 7 440
King Oscar Kipper Snacks 8 222
Elf Sliced Lunch Herring 8 1,100
Gunkel Fried Herring Housewife-Style 8 1,375
Beach Cliff Kipper Snacks in Water 9 289
Elf Herring in Horseradish Sauce 10 990
Gunkel Kipper Fillets in Own Juice 11 1,100
Shellfish (24 to 126 cals.)
Geisha Canadian Snow Crab Meat 0 280
Clams, chopped or minced(1) 0 288
Geisha Lump Crab Meat 0 308
Reese Tiny Shrimp 0 370
Geisha Large Shrimp 0 650
Sea Fare Crabmeat(2) 1 191
Baby clams, whole, in water(1) 1 291
Geisha Tiny or Broken Shrimp 1 300
Chicken of the Sea Lump Crabmeat 1 400
Chicken of the Sea Shrimp 1 400
Oysters, in water (1) 3 251
Oysters, in oil(1) 6 210
Mussels, smoked, in oil(1) 6 276
Baby clams, in oil(1) 8 248
Anchovies, Caviar (1/2 ounce--15 to 29 cals.)
Romanoff Lumpfish Caviar(2) 1 380
Anchovies, in oil(1) 2 827

= Best Bite.

* = All numbers are for drained fish, except for sardines and herring that are packed in sauce.

(1)= Average of information from several manufacturers.

(2)= Average of the entire line.

* Information obtained from manufacturers.

* The use of information from this article for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission from CSPI.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Brand-Name Comparison
Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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