US tells pregnant women don‘t eat shark, swordfish
USA: January 14, 2001
WASHINGTON - Pregnant women should not eat shark, swordfish, king
mackerel or tilefish because they may contain enough mercury to damage
the fetus‘s nervous system, the US Food and Drug Administration said on
Young children, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant should
avoid those fish as well, FDA said in a consumer advisory.
A National Academy of Sciences report issued last July estimated up to
60,000 children a year were born each year who had been exposed to
during pregnancy to levels of mercury that could interfer with
development of the brain and nervous system.
Even so, seafood, a naturally low-fat source of protein, can be an
important part of a balanced diet for pregnant women and women who may
become pregnant, FDA said.
„You can safely eat 12 ounces per week of cooked fish,“ the FDA advisory
said. „You can choose shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish or
farm-raised fish - just pick a variety of different species.“
Consumer groups wanted fresh tuna, used in sushi or served as tuna
steak, added to the warning list as well. „We shouldn‘t be ignoring the
risk there,“ said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project.
„The question is why fresh tuna steak were not included on the list
because they can also pose a risk,“ said Caroline Smith DeWaal of Center
for Science in the Public Interest.
Mercury enters the environment naturally and through industrial
pollution. Nearly all fish contain trace amounts of methyl mercury but
longer-lived, larger fish that feed on other fish, like shark or
swordfish, accumulate the highest amounts of methyl mercury and pose the
largest threat to people who eat them regularly.
In a related announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency said
pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, nursing mothers and
young children should eat only one meal per week of freshwater fish
caught by family members or friends.
The agency said a meal for adults should be six ounces of cooked fish
and for children, two ounces.
EPA said consumers should check with their state or local health
departments for specific advice about local waters.
Six states - Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and
Vermont - have issued warnings on methyl mercury in fish. Minnesota, for
example, advises pregnant or nursing women against eating swordfish or
shark while saying up to seven ounces per week of canned tuna is safe if
no other fish containing mercury is eaten.
Story by Charles Abbott
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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