FDA/EPA Fish Consumption Advice Misses The Mark

Gavin Gibbons (703) 752-8891 ggibbons@NFI.org

Redesigned Message to Moms Confuses, Fails Science-Based Mandate

January 18, 2017 San Francisco, CA – Newly released FDA/EPA advice to women on eating seafood runs the risk of confusing moms and nutrition professionals alike. With lists, categories and an unclear message that includes suggestions on how often to eat Buffalofish, Weakfish and Sheepshead, the advice has nutrition professionals scratching their heads.

“Clear, concise direction that encourages pregnant women to eat more fish for optimal baby brain and eye development is a science-based message that’s needed. I don’t see that message in this document,” said the National Fisheries Institute’s registered dietitian Rima Kleiner, MS RD.

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Dr. Stephen Ostroff recently said, “For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children.  But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

“FDA numbers show that pregnant women eat less than 2 ounces of fish per week as it is. The FDA’s clinical goal, originally, was to increase that number. That message is lost in this advice,” said Kleiner.

The advice fails to follow much of FDA’s own research. For instance the FDA’s Net Effects report notes that it is safe to eat 61 ounces of Halibut, or 15 servings a week, yet limits Halibut to one serving per week. Similarly, FDA research finds it’s safe to eat 853 ounces of Salmon per week, or more than 200 servings, yet the advice limits it to 2 to 3 servings.  The disconnect raises serious questions about how science-based this advice is.

“This advice raises more questions than answers,” said John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute. “We’re interested to find out what it’s based on. The fact that FDA/EPA communicators did not test this document with the audience for whom it was created is concerning.”

The document suggests children start eating fish at age 2 while a report released last week by the National Academies of Sciences encourages children to have seafood earlier, noting that there is no “convincing evidence” to delay introduction of fish. That kind of fundamental contradiction troubles professionals on the front lines of communicating nutrition advice.

“The advice was supposed to be designed to clear up confusion but unfortunately it does not appear to have achieved that goal,” said Kleiner. “A deeper dive into how this document was created and what it’s based on will help answer some of those questions. But at this point we’re left with a lot on unknowns and that’s not a great place to be when health is at stake. ”

NFI is the leading trade association for the seafood community in the United States and promotes the latest on seafood based on ground truth science.  For more information visit our Web site at www.AboutSeafood.com.