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FDA, EPA Advise Pregnant Women, Children to Eat More Low-Mercury Fish

Marla Cone and Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News
6/12/14

 

 

 

 

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Health News

Federal officials on Tuesday June 10 announced major changes in advice to pregnant and breastfeeding women by recommending consumption of at least eight ounces of low-mercury fish per week.

It is the first time that the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have issued recommendations on the minimum amount of fish that pregnant women and children should eat. The previous advisory, issued in 2004, included only maximum amounts to protect their fetuses and young children from mercury, which can harm developing brains and reduce IQs.

“Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits,” Nancy Stoner, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Water, said in a statement. “This updated advice will help pregnant women and mothers make informed decisions about the right amount and right kinds of fish to eat during important times in their lives and their children’s lives.”

Under the long-awaited, proposed new guidelines, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to eat a minimum of eight ounces and no more than 12 ounces of fish with low levels of methylmercury, including shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. That is equivalent to two or three fish servings per week. Young children, according to the advisory, also should have two or three smaller servings of low-mercury fish, or three to six ounces, per week.

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As in the old recommendations, pregnant and nursing women and young children are advised to avoid four high-mercury fish: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

The agencies also reiterated their specific recommendations for limits on albacore (or white) tuna: no more than six ounces a week for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Children, they say, should eat no more than one to four ounces of albacore tuna weekly.

Advice about consumption of tuna has been highly controversial, with the fishing industry criticizing limits and health advocacy groups pushing for the FDA and EPA to add it to the list of fish to avoid.

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