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  1. FDA In Brief

FDA In Brief: FDA revises 2017 fish advice for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children

July 2, 2019

Media Inquiries

  Peter Cassell

“Fish and shellfish are an important part of a well-rounded diet. However, we know many consumers worry about mercury in fish and even choose to limit or avoid fish because of this concern. In fact, we have seen that women in the U.S. who are pregnant are consuming far less than the recommended amount of seafood,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “One of our responsibilities at the FDA is to ensure that consumers have the best information available to make food choices that are good for their health and the health of their families. That’s why in 2017, the FDA, along with the EPA, issued advice regarding fish consumption for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children. Today, we are revising this advice to provide further information about the potential health benefits of eating fish based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Our goal is to make sure Americans are equipped with this knowledge so that they can reap the benefits of eating fish, while choosing types of fish that are safe for them and their families to eat.”

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an easy-to-use reference chart to help consumers more easily understand the types of fish to eat more or less of based on their mercury levels. The information in the chart has not changed; however, the FDA is today releasing revised advice, which expands information about the benefits of fish as part of healthy eating patterns by promoting the science-based recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines provide advice for people in the U.S. 2 years of age and older and recommend that adults eat at least 8 ounces of seafood per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

The FDA’s revised advice highlights the many nutrients found in fish, several of which have important roles in growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood. It also highlights the potential health benefits of eating fish as part of a healthy eating pattern, particularly for improving heart health and lowering the risk of obesity. The revision announced today is designed to help consumers who should limit their exposure to mercury choose from the many types of fish that are lower in mercury – including ones commonly found in grocery stores, such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. It is important to note that women who might become pregnant, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding—along with young children—should avoid the few types of commercial fish with the highest levels of mercury listed on the chart.

This revision is being made in accordance with a provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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