How Does Mercury Contaminate Food

The primary portal of mercury contamination of food is via its industrial release into water, either fresh or salt water, and its conversion to methyl mercury by methanogenic bacteria. As the marine life takes up the methyl mercury, it works its way into the food chain and is ultimately consumed by humans. This is the scenario that occurred following the release of inorganic mercury from an acet-aldehyde plant into Minimata Bay in Japan in 1956 and 1965 and is responsible for the so-called 'Minimata disease.' Furthermore, acid rain has increased the amount of mercury available to be taken up by the tissues of edible sea life and can enhance the toxicity of certain fish. An unfortunate consequence of seafood contamination with methyl mercury is the contamination of fish meal used to feed poultry, resulting in mercury accumulation in the poultry as well as in the eggs. Additionally, mercury-containing pesticides can contaminate agricultural products. In Iraq in 1971 and 1972, wheat used in the baking of bread was contaminated with a fungicide that contained mercury.

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