Mercury Contamination is Threatening Our Dining Table

An Investigative Report

Full report


The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s web site houses a warning on the amount of mercury contained in the meat of dolphins, whales and fishes and the consumption on their meat. However, it is clear from our survey that such information by the MHLW is not being adequately conveyed to consumers or dealers of dolphin meat. Dealers of dolphin meat continue to sell contaminated product without any knowledge of mercury contamination and consumers continue to purchase and eat it also without any knowledge. In other words, it is evident that the halfhearted warning by the MHLW is not sufficient in protecting the health of consumers.

In any event, the fact that foodstuffs containing a toxic chemical (mercury) at levels that exceed the government established level are being sold without any regulation or warning is an issue that cannot be overlooked. Normally, food containing toxic chemicals at levels that exceed a regulatory level should never be shipped or sold. Until measures to prohibit selling of dolphin meat are enforced, dealers should be obliged to provide information to all consumers on the toxic content of the products on sale, by displaying labels with warnings concerning toxic chemical contamination. This allows the consumer to decide whether to purchase it or not.

In Japan, the sale of food containing residual agricultural chemicals in levels that exceed regulatory levels has been prohibited since 2006. Cigarette packages also display warnings about the harmful effect of smoking on health. The same measures should be taken for dolphin, whale, and fish meat which are found to contain amounts of mercury that exceed the provisional regulatory standard.

In Japan where fish is consumed regularly, a considerable amount of mercury must be accumulating in people who eat fish and dolphin meat. Mercury accumulation can be determined by hair analysis and we have received reports that indicate that the amount of mercury in the hair of people who eat dolphin meat is abnormally high or significantly above average. With continued hair inspection, the damage to health caused by the accumulation of mercury will become evident. In the meantime, prompt positive action by the government is essential in order to stop the adverse effect of mercury on our future generations.

This report was written by Sakae Hemmi, and supervised by Eiji Fujiwara.
English translation was provided by Tadaaki Yamada and Sakae Hemmi, with supervision by Susan Millward at the Animal Welfare Institute.
Cooperation: Aramu Kikaku: Environment and Food Safety Group
Copyright 2008 Elsa Nature Conservancy. All rights reserved.