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Mercury Concentrations in Fish Jerky Snack Food: Marlin, Ahi, and Salmon

Jane M Hightower1* and David L Brown2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, California Pacific Medical Center, 2100 Webster Street Suite 418, San Francisco, California, 94115, USA

2 Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Chico State University, Chico, CA, 95929, USA

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Environmental Health 2011, 10:90  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-90

Published: 11 October 2011



Dried meat and fish have served as an important durable nutrition source for humans for centuries. Because omega 3 fatty acids in fish are recognized as having antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties found to be beneficial for good health, many consumers are looking to fish as their main source of protein. Unfortunately, contaminants such as methylmercury can accumulate in some species of fish. The purpose of this research is to test commercially available fish jerky snack foods for mercury contamination.


Fifteen bags of marlin jerky, three bags of ahi jerky, and three bags of salmon jerky were purchased from large retail stores in Hawaii and California, and directly from the proprietors' Internet websites. Five individual strips of jerky per bag were analyzed for a total of one hundred and five tests.


From the seventy-five marlin jerky samples, mercury concentration ranged from 0.052-28.17 μg/g, with an average of 5.53 μg/g, median 4.1 μg/g. Fifty-six (75%) marlin samples had mercury concentrations that exceeded the FDA's current mercury action level of 1.0 μg/g, while six samples had greater than 10 μg/g. Fifteen samples of ahi had mercury concentrations ranging from 0.09-0.55 μg/g, while mercury concentrations in fifteen salmon samples ranged from 0.030-0.17 μg/g.


This study found that mercury concentrations in some fish jerky can often exceed the FDA's allowable mercury limit and could be a significant source of mercury exposure.

Ahi; fish; jerky; marlin; mercury; methylmercury; salmon