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FDA advises women, children to eat more fish

Pregnant women should eat more fish, according to the FDA and EPA’s revised fish consumption advice.

Along with pregnant women, the agencies say breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children should eat more fish that is lower in mercury, including shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

Pregnant women should eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of the aforementioned fish to support fetal growth and development, according to the draft guidelines.

While the agencies recommended maximum fish consumption levels for pregnant women 10 years ago, the new advice marks the first time they have proposed minimum consumption guidelines.

“The FDA and EPA feel it is very important to recommend a minimum level in addition to a maximum level,” Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said in a media call, Tuesday.

This is due to evolving science showing significant neurodevelopmental and health benefits of fish consumption for fetuses and young children.

Meanwhile, an FDA survey of 1,000 pregnant women in the U.S. found that 21% ate no fish in the previous month, while 50% ate fewer than 2 ounces a week; and 75%, fewer than 4 ounces a week.


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“These results show that a large portion of pregnant women are not eating enough fish to get the health and developmental benefits that fish provides,” Ostroff said. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are encouraged to avoid four types of fish that are associated with high mercury levels: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; and king mackerel. In addition, the draft advice recommends limiting consumption of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

When eating fish caught from local streams, rivers and lakes, the agencies recommend heeding fish advisories from local authorities. If advice isn’t available, Americans should limit their total intake of such fish to 6 ounces a week and 1-3 ounces for children. Before issuing final advice, the agencies will consider public comments.

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