The new guidelines follow a FDA analysis of seafood consumption data from over 1,000 pregnant women in the United States that found 21 percent of them ate no fish in the previous month, and those who ate fish, ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations.
Previously, the FDA and the EPA recommended maximum amounts of fish that these population groups should consume, but did not promote a minimum amount. Over the past decade, however, emerging science has underscored the importance of appropriate amounts of fish in the diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and young children, according to a press release.
The agencies stated that there was "longstanding evidence of the nutritional value of fish in the diet. Fish contain high-quality protein, many vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acid, and are mostly low in saturated fat, and some fish even contain vitamin D. The nutritional value of fish is especially important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood."
Fish is not recommended at all under age 6 months, and many pediatricians do not recommend seafood until age 12 months because of possible allergic sensitization. But starting at 12 months the new report recommends the following amounts of low mercury containing seafood (such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish, and cod):
- 3.5 oz weekly up to age 6
- 4 to 6 oz weekly in children ages 6 to 8 years and then gradually up to the adult amount
- 8 to 12 oz weekly in breastfeeding women and women who may become pregnant
Because of possible mercury contamination the FDA recommends against tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, especially in children and nursing mothers, and recommends limiting albacore tuna to 6 oz daily in adults and proportionately less in children.
For locally caught fish, look at advisories for local conditions, and whether mercury is a problem.
The FDA and EPA are currently accepting comments on the new guidelines and they can be submitted online here.