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seafood nutrition

Raw seafood and safe mercury levels

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Catastrophic oil spillages out at sea tend to hit the news from time to time, and these events are usually enough to make some portions of the public avoid seafood from the areas affected.


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However, with much of the world in love with Japanese food, more specifically sushi and sashimi, many have chosen not to bother about the possibility that they could be consuming raw seafood from waters contaminated by radioactive waste leaks.

A toxicant of great concern is methylmercury, which are found in all kinds of fish and increase in concentration as we move up the food chain. The compound can be absorbed by the human gastrointestinal tract, and high levels of methylmercury have been known to cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain, as well as long-term neurological symptoms.

While seafood choices like salmon, cod, shrimp, oysters, and clams all carry relatively low levels of mercury, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in them seem to offset the ‘small risks’ that mercury brings, there has been a steady increase in concern regarding mercury over the last decade. 


Photo: Shutterstock

Of course, we shouldn’t have to stop eating seafood, especially since white meat is typically better for the digestive system compared to red meat. However, as you decide which types of seafood to eat, do remember that the smaller the fish, the safer it is – that is probably the simplest way of putting it.

It should also be pointed out that seafood is not the only source of methylmercury. The substance can also be found in the environment, being produced in occurrences such as volcano eruptions and forest fires as well as industrial processes like the burning of fuels.

If we were to surmise the main point, it’s that it would be better to cook seafood properly before eating it than to go through the trouble of tracking the mercury levels in the part of the world your fish or crustacean comes from. 


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