FDA and EPA Issue Fish Consumption Advice
January 18, 2017
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued advice regarding fish consumption. This advice is geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children – make informed choices when it comes to fish that is healthy and safe to eat. (This advice refers to fish and shellfish collectively as “fish.”)
To help consumers more easily understand the types of fish to select, the agencies have created an easy-to-use reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:
--“Best Choices” (eat two to three servings a week)
--“Good Choices” (eat one serving a week)
--“Fish to Avoid”
Fish in the “Best Choices” category make up nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States.
An FDA analysis of fish consumption data found that 50 percent of pregnant women surveyed ate fewer than 2 ounces a week, far less than the amount recommended. Because the nutritional benefits of eating fish are important for growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood, the agencies are advising and promoting a minimum level of seafood consumption for these groups. The advice recommends 2 to 3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week, or 8 to 12 ounces. However, all fish contain at least traces of mercury, which can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time. The maximum level of consumption recommended in the final advice is consistent with the previous recommended level of 12 ounces per week. The new advice is consistent with the 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
For adults, a typical serving is 4 ounces of fish, measured before cooking. Serving sizes for children should be smaller and adjusted for their age and total calorie needs. It is recommended that children eat fish once or twice a week, selected from a variety of fish types.
For additional information:
- Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know (FDA/EPA's advice regarding fish consumption)
- Federal Register Notice Announcing the Advice