What's the deal with ... tinned tuna?

Most Aussie brands of tuna get a sustainability tick from Greenpeace.
Most Aussie brands of tuna get a sustainability tick from Greenpeace. Photo: James Brickwood

Lifting the lid

Tuna are caught, frozen, cooked, portioned, canned, then retorted (cooked again) to ensure a long shelf-life. Upwards of six million tonnes of tuna are caught annually worldwide, 67 per cent of them in the Pacific Ocean. Albacore, skipjack and yellowfin are the most common varieties used for canning.

Is it healthy?

Yes. Tinned tuna is high in protein and contains more omega-3 fatty acids by weight than any fresh fish, though not as many as tinned sardines. Mercury levels concern some people but Food Standards Australia says the average person could eat a small tin every day with no concerns.

Flavour waiver

Most brands offer brined and oil-marinated tuna, along with numerous flavoured versions – everything from curry to Tex-Mex or Thai. I'd rather self-augment but if you're going this way, keep an eye on the sugar and salt content as well as the tastiness.

Best in breed

Most Aussie brands get a sustainability tick from Greenpeace. Look for pole- and-line-caught tuna, which are hooked one by one, avoiding by-catch. Think twice about yellowfin, which is generally less sustainable than skipjack. If the tin doesn't list the type of tuna, don't buy it. Brands with decent credentials include Fish 4 Eva, John West, Safcol and Sirena. Aldi and Coles own-brand cans are OK, too, but check each for breed and catch method.

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What can I do with it?

Tinned tuna is an easy snack. Fork-mash it with capers, mayo or olive oil, lemon zest, chopped herbs, salt flakes and lots of freshly ground pepper then pile it on a toasted baguette. Toss tuna chunks through pasta puttanesca. Make simple fritters by combining tuna in brine with mashed potato, cheese, beaten egg and chopped chives before crumbing and frying.

Did you know?

"Dolphin-safe" is usually a meaningless claim because dolphins don't swim with tuna in the Pacific.