Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish? Is It Safe?

Over the years, advice to pregnant women regarding eating tuna has evolved. If you are confused and worried about the outdated information about eating tuna during pregnancy, I understand.

This page is regularly updated with the latest tuna and pregnancy information for women from most countries including the USA and Europe.

Women who are pregnant should consume two to three portions per week of different fish. Tuna that is low in mercury (such as light canned versions) can be included. You can eat other types of tuna during pregnancy but not as often.

You’re probably asking, “But how can I tell the amount of mercury in tuna?” And whether you should eat different kinds?

This article will tell you which tuna has the highest or lowest mercury content, how to eat it and provide a portion guide that breaks down each step so, you know exactly how much you should eat, depending on how and what you eat.

Fish is a great food to eat during pregnancy. Tuna is a good choice if you select lower mercury fish.

Is Tuna High in Mercury? What Tuna has the most or least mercury?

The table below lists the levels of mercury found in tuna from lowest to highest. The table below uses data collected between 1990 and 2012. This was done by the US Food and Drug Administration. They tested mercury levels of commonly caught commercial fish.

Each number represents the average mercury concentration in parts per million (PPM). The maximum mercury content in fish sold commercially is 0.5 ppm (source: SGS) in almost all countries.

Safe Catch, a US-based brand of tuna, tests all varieties of fish for Mercury and can guarantee low mercury levels. Find out more about Safe Catch by visiting my page on recommended foods for pregnant women.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish? Is It Safe?

Types of Tuna Average PPM Mercury Level
Safe Catch Elite  0.04 – best for pregnancy
Read more about Safe Catch Wild Ahi here () 0.04 – best for pregnancy
Canned Light 0.126 – best for pregnancy
Skipjack (Fresh / Frozen / Canned) 0.144 – best for pregnancy
Safe Catch Wild Albacore 0.2 – best for pregnancy
Canned Albacore, all brands In moderation, 0.350 is OK
Yellowfin Tuna, Ahi (Fresh / Frozen) 0.354 – OK in Moderation
Albacore (Fresh / Frozen) 0.358 – OK in Moderation
If species are unknown, fresh/frozen average 0.410 – Not Recommended
Bigeye Tuna (Fresh / Frozen) 0.689 – Not Recommended
Atlantic Bluefin (Longtail), Southern Bluefin The 0.796 value (source: PMC) can be higher for larger fishes – not recommended
Pacific Bluefin and Blackfin It is almost always higher than 0.95 (source: Briloon).

Remember that these are only averages. The larger the tuna, the higher the mercury concentration.

When you are buying or catching fresh tuna, and can see its size, choose steaks of smaller fish whenever possible.

How much tuna should I eat during pregnancy and how often?

The mercury chart shows how much you can eat tuna during pregnancy. You should not eat more than:

  • You can eat up to 12 ounces (225-340g) of canned tuna, or any other type of fish or seafood. This is approximately 2-3 skipjack steaks if fresh. This is about 4 regular cans (or skipjack/light) of tuna.
  • You can also have up to 6oz (180g) of fresh or canned albacore or yellowfin/ahi. This is about 1-2 portions of small fresh ahi/yellowfin/albacore steaks or no more than 2 regular cans of albacore.
  • Add the sums together, but do not mix them up. If you have a maximum of 4 cans, you cannot eat more albacore tuna on top. You could only have one light tuna can if you had a yellowfin steak.
    You’ll do fine if you follow the weights and types listed above. Some countries provide slightly different information. In Australia, for example, any type of tuna counts towards the 2-servings per week requirement (source: eat for health).
  • You should avoid eating any high-mercury tuna during pregnancy. The mercury levels can vary greatly depending on the size and where the fish was caught. Bluefin tuna is not harmful if you eat it once, but it should be avoided.

Tuna Portion Sizes in Pregnancy

Be aware that portion sizes can vary. As with restaurant-sized tuna steaks, canned tuna is available in a variety of sizes. As a guide:

  • A portion of fresh ton should be about 3.5oz or the size of the palm of your hand. Restaurants often serve much larger portions. Be aware and order accordingly. Ask what species of tuna it is if you can.
  • A portion of canned tuna equals about 2 to 3 ounces (50-60g) or half the size of a standard tin.
  • A portion of tuna is approximately 2-3oz in a pouch. Check the label to see if there are pouches with portions of up to 70g (2.5oz).

If you are pregnant, you should eat as much fish and seafood as you can. It’s not necessary to avoid tuna, as long as you consume the recommended varieties. However, it is good to vary your diet. To help you vary your fish diet.

What Happens If You Eat Too Much Tuna While Pregnant?

It is not necessary to panic or worry if you accidentally consume too much tuna during a given week. Fish is a great, nutritious food for pregnant women to consume. It also has many health benefits.

You want to limit your tuna consumption to prevent the cumulative effects that mercury can have on the bloodstream. You can reduce your tuna intake if you feel you have eaten too much. Then, follow the guidelines for the rest of the week.

High mercury levels in the bloodstream may negatively impact the brain development of a baby and its nervous system (source Mayo Clinic). If you follow the guidelines, you can enjoy all the benefits of eating fish while still avoiding excessive mercury.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish? Is It Safe?

Can pregnant women eat canned / tinned tuna?

You can safely consume tinned tuna or canned tuna during pregnancy.

You may have to look at the ingredients or the factory-printed label on the can to determine the type of fish.

Tuna in water or brine will have fewer calories than tuna fried in oil. Tuna in flavoured cans is also okay during pregnancy.

I recommend Safe Catch to pregnant women in the USA and Canada. is the brand that has the lowest level of mercury (each fish tested, unlike other brands).

Safe Catch only cooks the tuna in the can once, so that you do not drain it. Instead, you mix in the juices and get more nutrients from the fish. This is why it’s the official tuna for the American Pregnancy Association. The company has also branched out into low-mercury sardines, salmon and other fish.

You might also wonder: Is it safe to eat tuna pouches while pregnant? Yes, pregnant women can eat tuna pouches.

Many of the top brands (Creations John West, Chicken of the Sea, etc.) make pouches of products containing tuna, which are often flavoured using other ingredients such as lemon and cracked pepper. All of them are safe to eat during pregnancy, as long as you follow the guidelines and portion sizes above.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish? Is It Safe?

Can pregnant women eat raw (or seared) tuna?

Raw tuna dishes can include sushi like tuna tataki and nigiri. Raw tuna is also used in Hawaiian dishes such as poke or tuna tartare.

The FDA in the USA recommends pregnant women avoid eating raw fish consumption, including tuna. (Source: FDA). In Australia and New Zealand, the advice is similar (source: NSW Food Authority). Raw fish is not recommended in Canada (source: BCCDC).

The UK tells pregnant women that they can consume raw fish as long as the fish has been frozen. This kills any parasitic worms in the fish. (Source: NHS).

You can either make your sushi or buy it from a store that does.

Remember that it’s difficult to tell what species of tuna is used in the sushi unless you specifically ask. Some cheaper tuna sushi may use higher-mercury fish. When pregnant, you should eat vegetarian versions (such as those made with cooked salmon, cooked tuna or canned tuna).

If you want to be extra cautious, it’s best to avoid raw tuna. Instead, opt for a fish that is lower in mercury or something else cooked.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Tuna Fish? Is It Safe?

Dishes that contain tuna and their pregnancy safety

Here is a list that includes dishes which are frequently questioned because they contain Tuna. The same guidelines apply to tuna consumption and portions.

When you eat dishes that contain tuna, it can be difficult to gauge the portion size.

Tuna salad (including tuna mayonnaise salads)

Mayo is often found in tuna salad. If the mayonnaise you’re using is pasteurized, which most are, it’s fine. In this article, you can learn more about the security of mayonnaise.

Women who are pregnant should avoid pre-prepared tuna or salad, such as in a deli or salad bar where the salad is stored in open containers or served. The reason for this is the possibility of cross-contamination.

Tuna Bakes or Tuna Casserole

It is safe for pregnant women to eat tuna pasta, casseroles, or bakes because the tuna comes from a can or tin. You can’t tell how much tuna you get in a serving, but you can estimate it to calculate your weekly allowance.

Tuna Sandwiches (including Tuna melts, paninis, etc.)

You can eat tuna sandwiches during pregnancy if they are made with pasteurized eggs. Ask for the sandwich to have it heated (or melt) if you are buying from a store or deli.

You can find a list of sandwich fillings here. This article also includes information on stores like Subway.

Seared or grilled tuna steak

In the past, tuna steaks were only charred on the outside. They are not cooked through. You can still eat tuna steaks during pregnancy but they must be fully cooked. Here are some tips:

  • Check the species of the tuna steak – some fresh steaks may be from larger species that are higher in mercury (scroll to the top for the table).
  • Many countries warn pregnant women to stay away from raw seafood, including tuna if it is still uncooked in the middle. When grilling or cooking tuna, make sure to cook the steak until it reaches a temperature of 145f/63c at its centre. This will kill any harmful pathogens. You’ll need to use a good food thermometer to measure it.
  • The NHS in the UK says that you can eat a tuna steak if it is not cooked through. However, you must freeze the fish first to kill parasites. (Source: NHS). If you’re using a fresh piece of steak, freeze it for at least four hours or cook it through.
  • Salmon is a lower mercury fish that will still be juicy when grilled.