For years, health professionals have advised pregnant women and parents of young children to eat fish but avoid types that are high in mercury. That advice remained confusing for some, since federal officials didn’t clarify which fish are low in mercury and which ones are high.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final guidance on fish consumption, geared to pregnant and breast-feeding women, and parents of young children. The agencies continue to recommend that people eat two to three servings of lower-mercury fish per week.
This time around, the agencies also provided information on which fish are high in mercury and which are low. The mercury levels were calculated using data from the FDA and other sources. The new advice says women who are pregnant and breast-feeding and parents of young children should avoid seven fish that are high in mercury: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, marlin, and king mackerel.
Fish that are low in mercury include some of the most commonly consumed varieties like salmon, cod, shrimp and tilapia. You can see a chart of how fish rank here.
Grocers and retailers that sell fish are encouraged to post the advice as well as the fish reference chart to help people make informed and healthy decisions about what fish to purchase.
The FDA says that 50% of pregnant women in an agency survey reported eating fewer than the recommended amount of fish to eat. Fish are generally a good choice due to their high amounts of protein and healthy fat.