Nutrition and You!

FDA and EPA Propose New Fish Advice for Women, Young Children


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have drafted new advice in an attempt to encourage young children, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and those breastfeeding, to eat more fish.

Fish contains important nutrients for developing fetuses, infants who are breastfed, and young children, but the latest analysis of fish consumption by pregnant women shows that this group is not consuming adequate amounts.

Research suggests that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, from at least 8 ounces of seafood weekly for pregnant and breastfeeding women is associated with improved infant health, such as visual and cognitive development.

The new proposed advice is for these women and young children is to eat 8 to 12 ounces (2 to 3 servings) of fish weekly from a variety of fish that are lower in mercury.

For children, the portion size will be smaller depending upon the age of the child. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, and is also a byproduct of industrial processes and pollution.

The airborne form of mercury accumulates on the surface of streams and oceans and is transformed by the bacteria in the water into the form of methylmercury. The fish absorb the methylmercury from the water or get it by eating the organisms that live in the water. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if too much is consumed.

While nearly all fish contain some methylmercury, larger fish with a longer lifespan contain the highest concentration of methylmercury. For that reason, it is recommended that the following fish be avoided or limited by women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and by young children:

Tilfefish from the Gulf of Mexico
King Mackerel
Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces weekly

The good news is that many of the most commonly eaten fish, which include salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod, are all lower in mercury.

The FDA also recommends that consumers pay attention to fish advisories when eating fish that you or others have caught from streams, rivers, and lakes. If advice isnít available, adults should limit these sources of fish to 6 ounces a week and young children to 1 to 3 ounces a week. They should also not eat other fish that week.

Here are some tips to getting more fish in your diet:

Flake canned salmon over your lunch or dinner salad.

Grill once, eat twice. Make extra fish for dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Order fish when dining out.

Add light tuna to cooked pasta and veggies and toss with a light salad dressing for a quick pasta salad meal.

The new advice by the FDA and EPA will be finalized in the future.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter: @JoanSalgeBlake

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