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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York district. (Photo: gillibrand.senate.gov)

Senators ask FDA to up seafood consumption recommendations

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 15:20 (GMT + 9)

Two senators are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and update its recommendations on the maximum amount of fish advised for pregnant and nursing women.

Seafood consumption has fallen to less than two oz per week on average, said a 2008 FDA survey. And not only has the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ advice to consume at least eight weekly oz of seafood not had a counterbalancing effect, but also the joint guidance by the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is advocating cutting down on seafood for young children and pregnant/nursing women.

The FDA and EPA are advising young children and pregnant/nursing women to curtail their consumption of this food to 12 oz a week consisting of species low in mercury contamination, including salmon, cod, sardines, shellfish and light tuna or pole-caught albacore tuna.

Now, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and obstetrician Tom Coburn, MD (R-Oklahoma) are pressing for the FDA to raise the maximum amount of seafood it recommends for these demographics. The politicians concur with researchers who claim that the FDA-EPA’s advice has paved the way for injurious cuts in seafood consumption by pregnant women.

“While the guidance is in many ways medically accurate, the recommendations communicate an overly risk-averse, precautionary principle that has led to unhealthy reductions in seafood consumption among pregnant women,” the senators wrote.

Gillibrand and Coburn are hoping for a response from the FDA within 30 days with a detailed plan on how it will update the 2004 advisory “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish” to correspond with the new US Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) dietary guidelines.

 

The senators’ letter supports the 2010 findings of two brain-nutrition researchers – Professors Thomas Brenna of Cornell University and Michael Crawford of London Metropolitan University – who urged the FDA to augment the maximum amount of lower-mercury seafood it recommends that young children and pregnant/nursing women consume on a weekly basis.

“Recent studies indicate that infants with mothers who ate seafood two-three times each week during pregnancy and breastfeeding have better eye and brain development than those whose mothers limited or avoided their consumption of fish,” the senators wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret A Hamburg, MD, who failed to reply.

In fall of 2010, a summit of omega-3 experts met and asked for an end to allegedly groundless fears of seafood due to mercury contamination, complaining that lower seafood consumption precludes children from reaching their full potential. 

Conversely, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports Consumers Union in December tested cans of tuna and found that the albacore variety tends to contain more mercury than light tuna.

The group then asked the FDA to adopt a more cautious approach regarding canned tuna consumption recommendations, as Consumers Union contends that pregnant women should be advised to avoid tuna entirely due to mercury's potential adverse effects on fetal development, reports Food Safety News.  

Related articles:

- Concerns over mercury levels in canned tuna 
- Scientists pressure FDA to update fish consumption draft 

 

By Natalia Real
editorial@fis.com
www.fis.com


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