Whether it's tuna salad, tuna pea wiggle or tuna surprise, canned tuna can pop up on school lunch menus.
"A hidden risk in school lunches that parents need to be aware of," said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project.
The Mercury Policy Project in Montpelier says kids who weigh less than 66 pounds who eat tuna more than once a month can have impaired brain development. They say the limit for kids who weigh more than 66 pounds should be two tuna servings a month. That's based on research from 59 school tuna samples in 11 states including Vermont. The group tested light tuna and albacore; albacore has three times the level of mercury.
"We're recommending no albacore be served to children in schools and that light tuna only be served once or twice a month in schools, depending on body weight of the child," Bender said.
The group also found that in samples from tuna used in schools, mercury levels can vary widely based on the fish, meaning each child could be getting a different amount of mercury.
"What we're looking at is Russian roulette when it comes to serving canned tuna at school and at home," Bender said.
"It's disappointing that school lunches are taking a bad rap in the public view," said Laurie Colgan, the director of child nutrition at the Vt. Education Department.
Colgan says this report is an unfair attack on the state's healthy and nutritious school lunches.
"The occasional service of tuna is not hazardous and it hasn't brought about an FDA warning to recall or limit tuna," she said.
Colgan says the amount of tuna being served in Vermont schools meets federal safety levels. She also says schools don't use tuna that much because it's expensive and not that popular. For example, of the thousands of students in the Burlington school district, only about 30 eat tuna each week-- mostly middle and high schoolers.
"We see most of it now being used in deli bars as well as a few salad bars," Colgan said.
A canned tuna food fight that may be over. The state education department says it has no plans to change the menu.
The Mercury Policy Project wants kids to switch to other sources of fish with lower mercury levels like salmon and shrimp.