FDA and EPA Draft New Fish Consumption Guidance

The two agencies issued draft guidance that provides updated advice on fish consumption by pregnant women and children.

The Food and Drug Administration and EPA have issued a draft report with updated advice on fish consumption. The two agencies have reached the conclusion that young children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and women who might become pregnant should eat more low mercury fish to gain important developmental and health benefits.

The updated advice in the draft is consistent with the recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Prior to this, the agencies recommended a maximum amount of fish for consumption in these groups but did not suggest a minimum amount. Due to new research and findings, however, the agencies are stressing the importance of including fish in the diets of pregnant women, young children, and breastfeeding women.

FDA conducted an analysis of seafood consumption in more than 1,000 pregnant women in the United States and found that 21 percent of the women had eaten no fish in the previous month, and those who did eat fish were eating far less than what was recommended. In fact, 50 percent ate fewer than two ounces a week and 75 percent ate fewer than four ounces a week. The new guidelines suggest eating 8-12 ounces per week.

"For years, many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children," said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, FDA's acting chief scientist. "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."

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