October 11, 2022
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the launch of an independent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on the Role of Seafood Consumption in Child Growth and Development. The FDA is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on this study, which supports the goals of the FDA’s Closer to Zero Action Plan for reducing the exposure of babies and young children to mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium from foods.
Seafood is part of a healthy eating pattern and provides key nutrients during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and/or early childhood to support a child’s brain, spinal cord, and immune system development. At the same time, seafood is the primary dietary source of mercury, which is spread throughout the environment by both natural and human-made processes. Mercury can damage the nervous system, and babies and young children are more vulnerable to the harmful health effects of mercury. Seafood can also be a source of exposure for other naturally occurring and human-made contaminants. NASEM will convene a committee of experts to conduct systematic reviews of the scientific literature on seafood nutrition and toxicology; taken together, these data will inform the basis for evaluating how seafood consumption impacts child growth and development.
This study is designed to provide the most up-to-date understanding of the science of seafood consumption and child growth and development. Better understanding the science on mercury exposure from food is an important step in the cycle of continual improvement in the FDA’s Closer to Zero Action Plan. The study will also help inform whether updates are needed for the current Advice about Eating Fish for children and those who might become or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
NASEM will publish the committee’s report after the study is complete, in approximately 18 months. The FDA will use the report’s findings, along with other data and information, to advance policies and programs that support healthy child growth and development.
During this time, the FDA will continue to provide information about how those who are or might become pregnant or caring for young children can choose seafood varieties consistent with limiting exposure to mercury. We will use updated analytical methods to collect and analyze new data on the mercury content of seafood. We also plan to conduct research with consumers to better understand how the FDA can provide information that may help families consider how to make seafood part of a healthy diet.
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