January 19, 2017 — U.S. seafood leaders and suppliers are expressing concern about new governmental guidelines issued Wednesday, 18 January regarding seafood consumption among pregnant women, parents and other consumers.
The new final advice document from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency is meant to help women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children – decide which fish are healthy to eat. To that end, the agencies divided 62 types of seafood into three categories: “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week), “Good choices” (eat one serving a week) and “Fish to avoid.”
Fish on the “Best choices” list account for more than 90 percent of the fish consumed in the U.S., according to the agencies. Best choices include salmon, pollock, anchovy, herring, Atlantic mackerel, lobster, scallop, shrimp, tilapia, catfish and canned light (skipjack) tuna. Good choices, which should be eaten once a week, include Chilean sea bass, halibut, carp, rockfish, snapper, Yellowfin tuna and albacore tuna.
Fish that should be avoided – because they contain the highest mercury levels – include King mackerel, orange roughy, marlin, shark, swordfish, bigeye tuna and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, according to the FDA and EPA.
However, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) issued a statement criticizing the guidelines, calling them “confusing.”
The new advice “runs the risk of confusing moms and nutrition professionals alike,” the NFI said. “With lists, categories and an unclear message that includes suggestions on how often to eat buffalofish, weakfish and sheepshead, the advice has nutrition professionals scratching their heads.”
“Clear, concise direction that encourages pregnant women to eat more fish for optimal baby brain and eye development is a science-based message that’s needed. I don’t see that message in this document,” said Rima Kleiner, registered dietitian with the NFI. “FDA numbers show that pregnant women eat less than two ounces of fish per week as it is. The FDA’s clinical goal, originally, was to increase that number. That message is lost in this advice.”