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    Final advice from FDA, EPA on fish consumption

    Seven types of fish should be avoided by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, and by young children, according to final advice just issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The guidance is aimed at reducing intake of mercury while promoting a minimum level of fish consumption during pregnancy and early childhood.

    According to FDA and EPA, the fish to avoid are tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, orange rough, bigeye tuna, marlin, and king mackerel because they contain high levels of mercury. The agencies recommend that women who are pregnant consume 2 to 3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week or 8 to 12 oz, which is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consumers who eat fish caught recreationally should base consumption on local or state advisories, if any. In the absence of advisories, FDA and EPA recommend eating just 1 fish meal a week from local waters and avoiding other fish that week.

    To help consumers understand which fish to eat, the agencies have created a chart that sorts 62 types of fish into “best choices,” “good choices” and “fish to avoid.” Nearly 90% of fish consumed in the United States are in the “best choices” category, according to the FDA. An analysis by the agency shows that 50% of women eat fewer than 2 oz of fish a week, which is far less than recommended.

    Next: Does low-level arsenic exposure affect fetal growth?

    The final advice on fish consumption follows draft advice issued in 2014 by FDA and EPA and takes into account more than 220 comments received from academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and consumer and external peer review of the information and method used to categorize fish.


    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.


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