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Government Recommends Stocking Up on Canned Tuna

Got enough canned tuna on hand?

You should, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which just published new recommendations encouraging consumers to prepare for the possibility of a bird flu outbreak by stocking up on canned tuna and other healthy, nutritious canned foods and juices.

In conjunction with the release of a new Pandemic Planning Update report issued on March 13, 2006 HHS has published a series of checklists to aid in influenza preparations, including a Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families.

Among the recommendations listed, HHS advises consumers to have adequate stores of canned tuna and other ready-to-eat meats, fruits, vegetables and soups as well as canned juices, bottled water, canned baby food and pet food.

Stating that no one in the world is prepared for an influenza pandemic, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said, "When you go to the store and buy three cans of tuna fish, buy a fourth and put it under the bed. When you go to the store to buy some milk, pick up a box of powdered milk. Put it under the bed. When you do that for a period of four to six months, you are going to have a couple of weeks of food, and that's what we're talking about."

But canned tuna is much more than a convenient, ready-to-eat food, which is why consumers looking for healthy, nutritious sources of lean protein will also see a can of tuna on "MyPyramid," the new food guidance system recently introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help consumers meet the recommendations contained in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Reflecting a key recommendation of the guidelines calling for consumers to eat two eight-ounce servings a week of foods rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), "MyPyramid" features canned tuna to drive home the message that fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Of the top 10 most commonly consumed fish in this country, salmon and canned albacore tuna have the highest levels of the omega- 3 fatty acid DHA, according to the USDA Nutritional Database.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also urge consumers to consume lower-fat protein sources, which is why "MyPyramid" features canned tuna along with lean meats and poultry, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

In fact, canned tuna is so high in protein that one six-ounce can yields one-third of the recommended daily amount. Moreover, canned tuna is very low in calories compared to other protein sources. There are 116 calories in a 100-gram serving of water-packed canned tuna compared with 208 calories in the same serving of turkey.

According to "MyPyramid," adults and children over age 2 should consume 5 1/2 ounces of lean protein every day.

"The fact that a can of tuna is featured in the food pyramid reinforces what nutrition experts have known for years," said Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., president and CEO of Shape Up America! and a member of the Tuna Nutrition Council, which advises the U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) on nutrition and public health matters.

"Not only is canned tuna a rich source of the essential omega- 3 fatty acids, but it is low in fat, rich in certain vitamins and minerals and an excellent source of protein."

According to experts working with HHS on flu pandemic planning, the best way for families to plan ahead is to have adequate supplies of nonperishable foods, water and other essentials on hand, which is also useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and storms.

HHS's Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families is available on the agency's Web site More information about canned tuna and its health benefits is available at the USTF Web site.

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