When you pick up a can of tuna, there are three to five terms*
that may appear on the label that let you know what you are buying.
The label will tell you the:
(1) Physical composition of what is in the can
(2) Color designation of the meat
(3) Media in which the tuna is packed
(4) Seasonings or flavorings that are added to the fish.
(5) Other Ingredients
Chunk Light Tuna in Water
Solid White Albacore Tuna
Grated Dark Tuna in Oil
(1) Solid Pack. Sometimes you will just see the word
solid. These fish are filleted (or quartered) into sections and
the fillets are placed into the can without any free fragments
of tuna. There may be small pieces added to fill a container,
but this must be less than 18% of the can's contents and must
be pieces broken from the tuna loins.
(2) Chunk. A mixture of varying size pieces of tuna.
A test is performed in which the tuna is spread out and pressed
through a 1/2 inch mesh screen. After the test, there must be
50% or more of the tuna remaining that did not go through the
screen in order to qualify as chunk tuna. The fish will retain
its structure, so you will still be able to tell that your can
contains pieces of meat.
(3) Flake. The same test is performed as with chunk,
but if more than 50% of the fish goes through the mesh screen,
the tuna is flake. You will still be able to tell that it is pieces
(4) Grated. The fish is made into small particles, all
of which will go through a 1/2 inch mesh screen. You will be able
to distinguish between the particles. The fish will not be paste-like.
(1) White - Albacore is the only fish that can be sold as 'White'
(2) Light - The color of the fish cannot exceed a Munsell value
(3) Dark - The color of the fish is more than a Munsell value
(4) Blended - At least 20% is light or white, and the remander
(1) Oil - Any type of vegetable oil but not olive oil.
(2) Olive Oil (might say 'Tonno' on the can)
Added Seasonings or Flavorings
A variety of flavorings and seasonings can be added including:
(1) Spices, spice extracts, or spice oils.
(3) Lemon flavoring
(4) Vegetable Oil (up to 5% of the contents of the can may be
vegetable oil, and the tuna will still qualify as water packed)
(5) Hydrolized Protein
(6) Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
(8) Vegetable broth which must have at least two of the following
vegetables: beans, carrots, garlic, parsley, potatoes, red bell
peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, onions, peas, green bell peppers,
(9) If the tuna is smoked, it will say smoked on the can.
If the tuna is seasoned with anything that is not on the list,
it will say 'Seasoned with _________' and the seasoning item will
fill in the blank.
If the can has sodium acid pyrophosphate, the label will say 'with
added pyrophosphate' or 'pyrophosphate added.'
Can Contents - How much tuna is in there?
The new standard size can of tuna is five ounces. This is a reduction
from the 'normal' size of six ounces, which was the standard for
several years. Prior to the six ounce standard, tuna came in seven
The FDA has the following guidelines for the amount of tuna left
in the six ounce can after you squeeze out the liquid:
Solid - 4.47 ounces
Chunks - 3.92 ounces
Flakes - 3.92 ounces
Grated - 3.96 ounces
It is important to note that soy and vegetable broth make the
tuna behave like a sponge. The meat will soak up to as much as
20% additional water weight, and the smaller the chunks or flakes
in the can, the more water weight the tuna will soak up. As a
result, if you have tuna with soy or vegetable broth, the meat
weight may be inflated up to 20% with water.
*Occasionally the label will tell you the species
of fish that is in the can, but this is not typical. For instance,
the most popular canned tuna is 'chunk light.' This can be a mixture
of skipjack, yellowfin or bigeye. Any tuna that is called 'white'
can only be albacore. Since albacore is the premium eating canned
fish, it is usually listed by name on the label.