Yesterday, the FDA took yet another step toward updating their fish consumption advice for pregnant women. They are closing their draft update to comments to begin further review.
Last year, the FDA came out with a draft update to their advice regarding fish consumption. The proposed new advice comes following an FDA analysis that found very low levels of fish consumption in pregnant women in the United States: 75% of surveyed women consumed less than half of the USDA’s recommended minimum for seafood consumption, while 20% had reported no seafood consumption at all in the last month.
The current official recommendation from the FDA for pregnant women is to consume a maximum of 12 ounces of low-mercury fish. However, the USDA has been recommending that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume between 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week. The proposed update to the FDA recommendation would bring it in-line with the USDA recommendation.
Moderate fish consumption in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers has been shown to contribute positively to the health of the child, something the FDA and USDA guidelines have reported for years. Fish can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients especially beneficial to a developing child, but they can also be a source of toxic levels of methylmercury and other contaminants.
The draft had received some heat last year for not emphasizing the importance of consuming fish high in omega-3s, or that the most common low-mercury seafood tends to also be low in omega-3 content. The latest version of the FDA draft update includes information comparing omega-3 content to mercury content in a variety of fish.
It remains to be seen what the final update will look like, and whether or not a change to the FDA guidelines will bring a signficant change to seafood consumption patterns. There are many reasons people don’t eat fish.
Hopefully, increasing knowledge of important nutrients during pregnancy will help women to better ensure they are getting the supplements their baby needs most.
You can view the drafted update at the FDA’s website.