FDA and EPA Update Advice on Eating Fish

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children advised to eat more fish with lower levels of mercury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today updated advice for pregnant women and young children about eating fish.

The agencies have recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women, women planning on becoming pregnant and growing children should eat more fish with lower levels of mercury.

The FDA and EPA already have guidelines for the maximum amount of fish that these groups should eat, but until now, they haven't had recommendations for a minimum amount.

The updated advice recommends that women who are pregnant, might become pregnant or are breastfeeding should eat 8 to 12 ounces (about 2 or 3 servings) of a variety of fish each week. The agencies also recommend 2 or 3 servings of fish for young children, but with portion sizes that are appropriate for the child's age and calorie needs.

"Eat healthy amounts of fish low in mercury."

The agencies recommend eating fish lower in mercury, which include salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

According to the update, the four types of fish highest in mercury are tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

Concerns about rising levels of mercury in fish have led some to limit their fish consumption or avoid eating fish altogether. But research has shown that fish can offer a number of health benefits.

"For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children," Stephen Ostroff, MD, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said in an FDA press release.

"But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health," Dr. Ostroff said.

Fish is packed full of beneficial nutrients, from high-quality protein to omega-3 fatty acids and many vitamins and minerals. Most fish are low in saturated fat, and some species even contain vitamin D.

"Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits," Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water, said in a press 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."

Review Date: 
June 10, 2014
Last Updated:
June 11, 2014