Understanding Tuna Labels

Meet the next generation of canned tuna—and get tips on what to look for on your next shopping trip.
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When I was a kid, canned tuna was a staple of every kitchen pantry. Tuna fish sandwiches were mayonnaise-drenched, white-bread-encased mainstays of the lunch box, and tuna-noodle casseroles, imbued with canned soup and embellished with crushed potato chips, made regular appearances on American dinner tables. No one seemed to question where that tuna came from, how it was caught, or what was in it.

Fast forward 50 years, and all this has changed for the better. Food transparency, sustainability, and environmental awareness have become the norm. Welcome to the new world of canned and jarred tuna! Here are three “Dos” to consider when shopping for canned tuna:

  1. Look for the Blue MSC Label. The Marine Stewardship Council is an international nonprofit organization that uses its ecolabel and fishery certification program to recognize and reward sustainable fishing practices, based on scientific methods and measures. 
  2. Know Your Fishing Methods. There are some that are acceptable and preferable—that would be pole-and-line harvested and troll-caught—and some that are not, specifically purse-seine and long-line methods. If a tuna container doesn’t specify the catch method or display the MSC label, the manufacturer likely uses one of these undesirable methods to obtain its fish. When in doubt, check out the company’s website.
  3. Employ Traceability. The highest-rated products allow you to track the container of tuna in your hand all the way back to the boat that landed that albacore or yellowfin. This ensures verification of sustainability standards. It might be information coded on the can, or it might be a number on the jar that you can plug in on a website to reveal the exact origins of that specific tuna. 

First-Rate Tuna Fish

Ready to take the plunge into sustainable tuna? Here are four top brands recommended by Greenpeace (greenpeace.org/usa) and/or the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org):


Wild-caught, MSC-certified, and traceable, this Italian-style tuna comes in glass jars and cans. Made with yellowfin tuna and hand-packed in olive oil or spring water, Tonnino includes herb-infused versions. 


Tonnino Tuna Ventresca in Olive Oil

American Tuna

Harvested and processed in the U.S., American Tuna supports artisanal fishermen and micro-canneries. This hand-filleted and hand-packed albacore is MSC-certified and made with no-waste processing. And the traceability info is coded on the cans.

American Tuna

American Tuna Pole Caught Wild Albacore

Wild Planet

Top-rated by Greenpeace, Wild Planet offers albacore and skipjack tunas packed in cans, jars, and pouches. Traceability information is available to third-party verifiers.

Wild Planet Albacore

Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna

Wild Selections

This is Bumblebee’s sustainable brand. It’s MSC-certified, with a portion of proceeds donated to World Wildlife Fund marine conservation programs. Wild Selections includes traceability info on its website.

Wild Selections Solid Light Tuna

Web exclusive recipes!

Stuck in a tuna sandwich rut? Break out with these two tuna recipes (only available at betternutrition.com): Tuna Pasta Puttanesca and Simply Herbed Tuna Salad.