Advice for Safe Fish Consumption

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March 7, 2017

Along with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FDA has issued final advice on safe fish consumption geared toward pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children.

Image description not available.Rebecca Voelker, MSJ

Together, the agencies created a reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into “best,” “good,” or “avoid” categories. The FDA said they took a “cautious and highly protective approach” in categorizing the fish so pregnant women and children could derive the nutritional benefits without being exposed to high mercury levels.

The advice recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women eat 2 to 3 servings from the best choices list or 1 serving from the good choices list weekly. Children should eat 1 to 2 servings of fish weekly beginning at age 2 years. An adult serving is 4 ounces but children’s servings should be smaller, based on their age and caloric needs. An FDA analysis showed that 50% of pregnant women surveyed ate fewer than 2 ounces of fish per week.

Lower-mercury fish considered “best” choices include species commonly eaten in the United States—shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod. The “good” category includes Chilean sea bass, halibut, and yellowfin tuna. Seven fish species with higher mercury levels that children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid include tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, marlin, and king mackerel.

“Fish are an important source of protein and other nutrients for young children and women who are or may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding,” Stephen Ostroff, MD, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement. “This advice clearly shows the great diversity of fish in the US market that they can consume safely.”

  read more at JAMA