Two US government agencies have issued joint guidelines about the consumption of mercury-tainted fish by women and young children.
Some fish more dangerous
The new guidelines—issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—advise that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children avoid eating meat from older, larger fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Also, the guidelines emphasize that fish is a good source of protein and other nutrients and can be important parts of a healthy and balanced diet.
In recent years fish has become increasingly popular because of the healthy benefits of its high omega-3 content. The American Heart Association recommends that people eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, even more for those diagnosed with heart disease.
About 12 ounces a week
Recently however, mercury pollution has been found to pose a significant risk to humans who consume diets high in fish.
According to the guidelines these fish should be avoided by women in the groups that may be most affected, and also by small children.
The guidelines suggest eating up to two meals a week—about 12 ounces—of fish known to be low in mercury such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Albacore tuna has more mercury than light tuna, the agencies report, so it should be limited to one meal a week. The FDA list the fish most likely to contain mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.