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FDA Gives New Recommendations on Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women and Fish

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued advice geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children make informed choices about which type of fish is healthy and safe to eat.  

The FDA has categorized fish into 3 groups:

  •  “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week or between 8-12 ounces max!)
  •  “Good choices” (eat one serving a week)
  •  “Fish to avoid”

The study found that 50 percent of pregnant women surveyed ate fewer than 2 ounces a week, far less than the amount recommended.  This recommendation is now consistent with the 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Kids in the House CEO, Leanna Greene  states that “Search statistics from the site show that people are seeking guidance and clear direction on what are right choices about food and nutrition are during their pregnancy.  We know that parents really want to do the right thing when it comes to all aspects of their pre-natal care.”     

Sherry A. Ross, MD Obstetrician and Author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period explains that, “Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil have great health benefits to the baby during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period.  Fish oil, particularly DHA, has a positive effect on brain and eye development in babies when taken by breastfeeding moms.”

Tanya Altmann, MD Pediatrician and author of, What to Feed Your Baby  tells Kids In the House,  “I have specific recommendations on how to feed fish and how much starting around 6 months of age, in my book which is consistent with the new recommendations.  Fish are a healthy source of protein and fat for all ages.  Wild salmon is a great choice for babies and young children.  When you get infants used to the taste of fish early, and feed it regularly, they grow up to be older kids and adults who like fish.”  


Not all physician’s agree with this new recommendation.  Jay Gordon, MD Pediatrician and author of Good Food Today, Great Kids Tomorrow says, “The FDA’s dietary fish guidelines are not even a “good start.”  They perpetuate the nutritional myth about fish being an “important source of protein” for children and pregnant women.  Fish may be a source of protein but it is far from an important protein-containing food.  The FDA acknowledges that all fish contain mercury and other toxic metals but stop far short of giving the most scientifically sound advice to pregnant women: eat very little fish, if any.  When a government statement includes tuna in their “best sources” one can tell that their staff scientists were not considering all available evidence.  If we had taken better care of our oceans, rivers and lakes, my recommendation might be different. But we have not protected those fish and seafood habitats from pollutants for many decades.  “Trendy” kids eating sushi 2-3 times a week with their parents are ingesting far too many potentially dangerous pollutants.  When doctors and government officials tell you to limit the amount of a certain type of food, perhaps zero is the best number.  Children and pregnant should not eat very much fish.”
The FDA and the EPA state that pregnant women should completely avoid the following fish: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, marlin and king mackerel. If you do want to add fish to your pregnancy and breast feeding diet, the new guidelines make it easy.

"These new guidelines offer a clear and easy chart that is an excellent tool for making safe and healthy choices when buying fish," says pediatrician Dr. Lisa Stern, "90% of Americans who consume fish make choices from the Best category already. The real issue is that 50% of pregnant women and children are not eating fish at all."





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