Federal agencies chart safe fish consumption

Federal agencies chart safe fish consumption

Fish is high in many important nutrients, including high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins, including vitamin D and minerals. In addition fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 acids that not only serve to help lower blood pressure and ease varicose veins by stimulating blood circulation, it helps to reduce triglycerides while increasing the breakdown of fibrin proteins involved in clotting and the formation of scar tissue. Yet, while Omega 3 is also essential in the development of brain tissue and eyes, concerns over mercury levels (and other contaminants from polluted waters) have led many pregnant women to eliminate it from their diets much to the concern of the FDA. As a result, the agency has partnered with the EPA to develop a chart that makes it easier for pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as the parents of young children etc., to choose from dozens of “healthy and safe options.”

This includes breaking down 62 varieties of seafood into 3 categories labeled “Best choices” (eat 2-3 servings amounting to 12 ounces per week for adults and 4 ounces for kids); “Good choices” (eat one serving a week); and “Fish to avoid. For instance “Best choices” lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as canned tight tuna, salmon. tilapia, pollock, catfish, cod and shrimp.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration warns parents of young children (and “certain women”) to avoid tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; orange roughy; bigeye tuna; marlin; and king mackerel, all of which (typically) have higher levels of mercury. The agency also cautions consumers to check with local health departments that monitor caught recreationally for advice on what is safe to eat from area waterways.

“It’s all about eating and enjoying fish of the right kind and in the right amounts,” stated Elizabeth Southerland, PhD, EPA Director for Water Science and Technology, who added that when in doubt, “eat just 1fish meal a week from local waters and also, avoid other fish that week.”

She also recommends that fisherman should “clean and trims their catch of skin and fat “since locally-caught fish may contain contaminants besides mercury. These can be reduced by boiling instead of frying by allowing the fat to drip off during cooking.

Note: While the agencies will be issuing their own programs to educate the public about safe fish consumption, they are urging all food markets to post the reference chart listing fish prominently so consumers can make informed decisions when making their purchases.

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