Advice updated on eating fish during pregnancy

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Federal officials announced Tuesday that they would recommend that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding eat at least 8 ounces of fish a week for their health. But because of worries about mercury, officials still advise limiting weekly fish consumption to 12 ounces.

Current guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency set only a ceiling on fish consumption among pregnant and breast-feeding women; the goal is to limit harmful effects of methylmercury, a contaminant found in many types of fish. But an analysis by the FDA has found that 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States eats little or no fish at all.

Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said the agency wanted to establish a minimum for consumption because of concerns that many women and children were not getting the benefits that fish can provide.

He cited studies suggesting that children born to women who eat little or no fish during their pregnancies have lower IQs than children born to women who eat the optimum amount of 8-12 ounces a week.

“These findings very consistently demonstrate that among women who consumed more fish during pregnancy — or at least the amounts we’re currently recommending — that there were improvements in children,” he said.

The updated advisory, which will enter a public comment period, encourages women and young children to eat seafood that is relatively lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna and cod. But it cautions against eating fish that tend to have higher levels of contaminants: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.

The FDA also said it would recommend limiting the consumption of albacore tuna to 6 ounces weekly because of concerns that some canned tuna can have higher mercury levels.

Consumer groups have pushed the agency to mandate information about mercury content on labels or at fish counters. But the announcement Tuesday stopped short of such requirements.

United States government - U.S. Food and Drug Administration - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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