The FDA and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued final joint recommendations for fish consumption in adults and children and aimed specifically for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
According to an FDA survey, 50% of pregnant women consumed fewer than 2 ounces of fish a week, which is less than the 8 to 12 recommended ounces. Because the nutritional benefits of eating fish are important for growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood, the FDA and EPA are advising and promoting a minimum serving for these groups, which include 2 to 3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week. Consuming too much mercury, however, can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time.
For adults, a typical serving of fish is 4 ounces, measured before cooking. Serving sizes for children should be smaller and adjusted for their age and calorie needs. It is recommended that children eat fish once or twice a week, selected from a variety of lower-mercury fish. These include shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod.
The FDA advises against consuming fish with higher mercury levels, especially for pregnant women and young children. There are 7 types of fish with higher levels of mercury that should be avoided: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; orange roughy; bigeye tuna; marlin; and king mackerel.
Best practices of consuming recreationally caught fish include checking local and state advisories for water, cleaning and trimming the fat and skin to remove contaminants besides mercury, and broiling instead of frying.
According to Elizabeth Southerland, PhD, EPA Director for Water Science and Technology, “The joint advice not only provides information for fish consumers who buy from local markets, but it also contains good information for people who catch their own fish or are provided fish caught for friends and relatives.”
- FDA and EPA issue final fish consumption advice [press release]: The US Food & Drug Administration; Published January 18, 2017.