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Tested Supermarket Swordfish Said to Exceed Mercury Limits

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Swordfish bought in supermarkets and tested for mercury levels contained levels above the legal limit for the substance, according to a study released last week by environmental groups.

The nonprofit environmental group Oceana said a University of North Carolina laboratory found elevated mercury concentrations in 24 swordfish samples taken from grocery chains around the country, including Safeway, Shaw's, Albertsons, and Whole Foods.

Groups that paid for the analysis said they want supermarkets to post signs warning shoppers of mercury's health risks, and want the government to increase its testing.

"Americans have a right to know what's in their food, and posting warning signs in grocery stores where these fish are sold is a simple, common-sense solution that fulfills that right," said Jackie Savitz, with the group Oceana.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Karen Brown, s.v.p. and spokeswoman for the Food Marketing Institute, said she was not surprised by the survey's findings, because swordfish and tuna are known to have higher levels of mercury. She said many supermarkets already offer brochures or post warning signs regarding mercury levels of certain seafood.

The average mercury level recorded in the survey was 1.1 parts per million, just over the government's limit of 1.0 parts per million, Oceana said. However, two samples from supermarkets in Maine and Rhode Island contained double the federal limit for mercury, according to the report.

The Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to remove any product from the market if it exceeds the 1.0 mark.

Elevated mercury levels have been linked to learning disabilities and developmental delays in children, and to heart, nervous system and kidney damage in adults.
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