Pregnant women, nursing women, women who might become pregnant and young children should eat more fish lower in mercury, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The draft recommendation states that pregnant women should eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of a variety of fish, according to a news release
from the FDA.
“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist in a statement. “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.”
Prior to these recommendations, the FDA and EPA had provided guidelines about the maximum amount of fish these populations should eat, but did not give advice on a minimum amount. Fish is considered a good source of omega threes, fatty acids thought to be beneficial to health.
“The American Pregnancy Association is encouraged by the FDA's announcement encouraging expecting and nursing mothers to eat more fish,” said spokesman Brad Imler in an email to VOA. “The Association recommends that mothers know which fish are safer to eat and which fish are concerns based on higher levels of mercury.”
According to the FDA, fish that have lower mercury content include shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. Fish that should be avoided include tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.
An FDA survey about fish eating habits among pregnant women in the U.S. revealed that 21 percent ate no fish in the previous month, and those who had eaten fish “ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommends—with 50 percent eating fewer than 2 ounces a week, and 75 percent eating fewer than 4 ounces a week.”
While the recommendations are a draft, the FDA says it will continue to study any potential risks and conduct a series of focus groups.