Recent research findings from Austria and the EU show that terrestrial contamination of foodstuffs -- i.e. plant-based products and products from land animals -- is very low. The majority of these foods had such low mercury concentration levels that they could not even be measured.
However, the situation in fish and shellfish is very different: concentration levels could be measured in many instances. About 80 to 100 % of the mercury in fish is methylmercury -- in shellfish (prawns, clams, squid) it is 50 to 80 percent. The remaining mercury is inorganic mercury.
Food Examinations in Austria
AGES examines mercury in fish and shellfish, as well as in foods of terrestrial origin, such as corn, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat, baby food, and sport and other dietary supplements. The results of the tests carried out from 2007 to 2015 are summarised in the latest Topical Report: Mercury.
No measurable levels of mercury were found in over 90 % of the 3,695 terrestrial samples (plant-based products, products from land animals) carried out. Increased values were found sporadically in dietary supplements and in one cep mushroom (porcini mushroom).
A total of 1,751 specimens taken from fish and shellfish were also examined. The samples taken from freshwater fish came mainly from trout, carp, char and pikeperch from both local waters and imported products. Additionally, exotic freshwater fish, such as iridescent shark, Tilapia and popular sea fish, such as tuna, cod, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, plaice, gilthead sea bream, halibut, Alaska pollock, sea bass, pollock, sprats, snappers and butterfish. An additional focus was crustaceans (prawns), water molluscs (squid, clams) and fish products (fish fingers and surimi). Moreover, individual samples were tested from over 30 other species of fish. The maximum levels permitted were exceeded in seven sea fish.