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FDA to Moms: Eat More Fish

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Pregnant and breastfeeding women, women who plan to get pregnant and young children should add more low-mercury fish to their diets for developmental and health benefits, according to a new draft update on advice for fish consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. FDA analysis of data from more than 1,000 pregnant women in the U.S. revealed that 21 percent of women had not eaten fish in the previous month and 50 percent ate fewer than two ounces of fish per week — well below the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans set in 2010.

The updated advice recommends pregnant women eat 8-12 ounces per week, or two to three servings, of a variety of low-mercury fish per week in order to support fetal growth and development.

Mild whitefish, such as pollack, tilapia, cod and catfish, as well as salmon and canned light tuna are all good choices for regular consumption due to their low levels of mercury. But don't go nuts eating only tuna — the FDA recommends moms-to-be consume no more than six ounces of white albacore tuna per week.

Pregnant mamas and little kids should still hold off on sushi and sashimi, as well as any other foods made with raw fish because they're more at risk for food-borne illnesses. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children should eat only cooked fish or shellfish because it has less bacteria and chances of having parasites than raw fish.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should completely avoid tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel, all of which are considered to have high mercury levels.

If you're eating fish caught in local waters, pay attention to local advisories about the safety of eating it, as there may be little or no monitoring of contamination levels. If there's no local advisory, limit consumption to six ounces and skip fish for the rest of the week to be safe, says the FDA. Local health departments should have information about advisories in your area for recreationally caught fish. The FDA also says children's consumption of local fish should be limited to 1-3 ounces per week when there are no local advisories to monitor levels of contaminants.

These updated recommendation guidelines aren't set in stone just yet — the FDA will seek advice from its Risk Communication Advisory Committee, conduct focus groups and a public comment period will be open for 30 days from the last advisory committee meeting before the agency will issue final advice. After a public comment period, finalized advice will replace information last issued in 2004.

Get more information about mercury levels in fish and FAQs about what pregnant women and parents should know about the fish consumption updates from the FDA here.

Will this advice from the FDA change the amount of fish you eat while pregnant or breastfeeding? Or will you shy away from two to three servings of fish in your diet?

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