Pregnant women have found it hard to understand which seafood is safe and which should be avoided due to mercury concerns. In 2004, the FDA set guidelines about how much seafood to eat, which species are good, and which species to avoid while pregnant and nursing.
This advisory has women so scared that they are avoiding fish altogether. In an analysis of 1000 pregnant women in America, 21% had not eaten any fish in the past month. Those who did had far less than the recommended amount (75% had less than 4 oz/week).
Last week, the FDA and EPA updated their “seafood list”, listing more than 60 species ranking “best choice”, “good choice”, and “choices to avoid.” They hope this makes pregnant women more confident about selecting seafood for their diets. “Best” fish include catfish, perch, tilapia, and salmon. While shark, mackerel, and swordfish were already on the “avoid” list, marlin, orange roughy, and bigeye tuna join them.
A 2014 report on the effects of eating commercial fish during pregnancy found it safe to eat 61 ounces of halibut a week (15 4-oz servings), but the new advisory limits halibut to once a week. Tuna has been split into each of the categories, avoiding ahi but rating canned tuna as best. This might prompt pregnant women and small kids to eat too much tuna.
While mercury is a big concern, it’s not the only contaminant. Wild striped bass and bluefish are listed as “good choices” for one serving a week. These fish are known to have high levels of PCBs, which can bring health risks to humans, so less than one serving a month would be better.
The FDA believes that they have carefully and cautiously determined which fish should go in which category and hope the recommendations will instill confidence in eating seafood again.
Leschin-Hoar, Clare. “FDA Issues New Seafood Advice For Moms-To-Be. Not Everyone Is Thrilled.” The Salt. NPR, 19 Jan 2017. Web. 23 Jan 2017.
“Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know.” Food. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 18 Jan 2017. Web. 23 Jan 2017.