Product Reviews
Tuna, Salmon & Sardines Review (Canned and Packaged)

Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
Initial Posting: 9/8/18; EXPANDED: 7/10/20; Last Update: 7/25/20
Canned tuna, salmon and sardines reviewed by
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  • Why eat them? Canned (or otherwise packaged) tuna, salmon, and sardines are convenient foods that help meet dietary recommendations for protein as well as providing the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (about 250 mg per day is recommended). They can also deliver other nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium (from edible bones in some salmon and sardines) and small amounts of iron. Eating fish can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (see What It Does).

  • What did CL find? Among 20 popular canned fish, amounts of DHA and EPA per serving ranged from just 45 mg in a brand of canned tuna to over 1,800 mg in a brand of sardines. In half the products, amounts of mercury and/or arsenic were discovered to be at levels suggesting they should not be eaten more than once or twice per week; such products included five of six the albacore ("white") tunas, two out of six skipjack or yellowfin tunas (the "light" tunas), and two out of three sardines. Two products contained significantly less DHA and EPA than claimed on their labels -- only 46.7% and 74.2% of what was claimed (see What CL Found).
  • Which are best? ConsumerLab selected five products as Top Picks within specific categories of tuna, salmon, and sardines. Each provided a significant amount of DHA and EPA with minimal contamination and at a good price — as little as 60 to 80 cents per 2 oz. serving while some similar products cost twice as much or more. These Top Picks are particularly good choices for people seeking more healthful options to solid white albacore tuna.
  • Are they safe for children? See ConsumerTips.
  • Cautions: In addition to avoiding excessive mercury and arsenic in some products, be aware that fish can cause allergic reactions. See Concerns and Cautions for more information.
UPDATE (2020): Additional products (ready-to-eat tunas, sardines, and another red salmon) were added to this Review in July 2020. Other products were tested in 2018. The year tested is noted in the first column of the Results table below.

What We Found in Canned Tuna and Salmon

What It Does:
Fish meat is one of the most healthful sources of animal-based protein because there is typically less saturated fat in fish than in other meats such as red meat. Instead, the fats (i.e., fish oils) in fish meat are mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated — such as the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  #319#
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