The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking the White House to amend its own previous warnings that children and pregnant women avoid seafood for fear of mercury poisoning, the Washington Post reports. The agency argues that the neurological benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and other minerals are worth the risk of mercury poisoning.
But not everyone is happy about this.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other consumer advocate organizations are outraged by the proposed change, accusing the FDA of catering to fishing industries and ignoring public health. The EPA has called the FDA document “scientifically flawed and inadequate” and an “oversimplification” of the health concerns involved.
There is a large body of scientific evidence that mercury can cause problems in the developing nervous system, so the new recommendations would have to be careful to educate consumers about both the positive and negative aspects of consuming more fish.
I have not seen the report myself, so I cannot pass judgement immediately. However, as I have explained in Synapse the dynamics of fish consumption and mercury contamination are very complicated, particularly for children and pregnant women.
My advice is to be careful with fish regardless of what the FDA report says. While it is extremely important to consume adequate omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D from fish sources, mercury contamination is a serious concern that should not be overlooked.
To get the maximum benefit from fish and minimize mercury consumption
- Eat fish at least twice per week
- Avoid large fish such as tuna, shark and swordfish
- Seek fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
- Take vitamin D and omega-3 supplements (fish oil based) when fish is not available
- Enjoy vegetarian sources of omega-3s like soy, flax and walnuts
Recently I have been experimenting with canned sardines and anchovies and they are much better than I expected them to be. I also enjoy canned salmon as well as smoked salmon or lox (but watch your nitrate intake!). If you can afford it, fresh fish is always wonderful.
Do any of you have strong opinions about the FDA report or know if it is available to the public yet?