Women and children should strictly limit certain fish

June 30, 2004 in Food Safety, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Women and children should strictly limit certain fish

Children, pregnant women, and women who are planning to become pregnant should strictly limit their intake of fish and avoid some types altogether to avoid potentially harmful levels of mercury and PCBs, experts said last week.

According to new guidelines released by the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, women of reproductive age and children should never eat shark, swordfish, tilefish or king mackerel.

The guidelines also recommend that women of reproductive age and children should eat no more than one serving per week of fresh or canned albacore tuna, orange roughy, marlin, grouper and bluefish.

Fish that are safe to eat up to twice per week include squid, canned chunk light tuna, monkfish, bass, trout and Pollock, which is found in fish sticks.

While fish and shellfish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, nearly all seafood contains traces of mercury. High levels of mercury in the bloodstream of fetuses and young children can impair development of the nervous system.

These guidelines closely resemble recommendations issued in March by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EPA.

However, the update also suggests that young women and children limit their intake of fatty fish, which contains high levels of PCBs. PCBs have also been shown to impair neurological development in fetuses and young children. According to the guidelines, to limit their intake of PCBs, women and children should eat no more than 1 to 2 servings per month of salmon, sardines, herring and bluefish.

They also cautioned that women of reproductive age and children should also be careful regarding fish oil supplements, which can contain high levels of PCBs and mercury.

A complete version of the latest guidelines is available at www.arhp.org/guide and www.mercuryaction.org

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