The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing the availability of revised advice about eating fish, which updates advice that FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly issued in January 2017.
While it is important to limit mercury in the diets of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and young children, many types of fish are both nutritious and lower in mercury. The revised advice highlights the many nutritional components in fish, many of which have important roles in growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood. It also highlights the potential health benefits of eating fish as part of a healthy eating pattern, particularly for heart health benefits and lowering the risk of obesity.
The advice is intended to help women who are or might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and parents of children over 2 years of age make informed choices about fish that are nutritious and safe to eat. While the advice categorizing fish based on their mercury levels has not changed, the revised document further promotes the science-based recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on the importance of fish in healthy eating patterns. It retains the easy-to-use reference chart that sorts more than 60 types of fish into three categories, based on their levels of mercury:
- “Best Choices”
- “Good Choices”
- “Choices to Avoid”
The advice refers to fish and shellfish collectively as “fish.”
The FDA/EPA advice about eating fish has been expanded to highlight:
- Recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Nutritional value of fish
- Potential health benefits of eating fish
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides advice for people in the U.S. 2 years of age and older and recommends that adults eat at least 8 ounces of seafood (less for young children) per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Eating fish when pregnant or breastfeeding can also provide health benefits. For this reason, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat 2 to 3 servings (8 to 12 ounces) of lower-mercury fish per week. Fish consumption in the U.S., including among women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, is far less than the amounts recommended. Data have shown that more than 20% of women who were pregnant reported eating no fish in the previous month; for those who did report eating fish, half ate less than two ounces per week.
The advice is being revised in accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019.