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Fish that pregnant women shouldn’t eat (and options that are safe)

Seafood
How much fish can pregnant women eat? The FDA offered its final guidelines this week. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Pregnant women, take notice: the U.S. FDA issued its final guidelines on how much fish expectant moms can eat, along with lists of specific options that are safe or should be avoided.

The advice extends to women who may become pregnant, breastfeeding moms and parents of young children. It’s supposed to help them make informed choices when it comes to fish that are healthy and safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Health officials grouped 62 types of fish into three categories:

Best choices are safe to eat two to three servings a week. They include cod, haddock, lobster, oysters, salmon, scallops, shrimp, sole and tilapia.

Good choices are safe to eat one serving a week. They include bluefish, grouper, halibut, mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna and snapper.

Fish to avoid shouldn’t be eaten at all because they have the highest mercury levels. They include King mackerel, marlin, shark, and swordfish.

See the full list of 62 fish below.

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READ MORE: How much fish should pregnant women eat?

The FDA said that 90 per cent of the fish eaten in the U.S. fall under the “best choices” category.

A single serving for an adult is about the size of the palm of your hand, or four ounces before cooking. Right now, 50 per cent of pregnant women ate fewer than two ounces of fish per week, which is far less than the recommended amount.

“Fish are an important source of protein and other nutrients for young children and women who are or may become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. This advice clearly shows the great diversity of fish in the market that they can consume safely,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s deputy commissioner, said in a press announcement.

For the first time in 2014, the FDA offered a recommendation on the minimum intake of seafood pregnant women should aim for. It said that pregnant women, breastfeeding moms and young kids should be eating eight to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week.

Keep in mind, there are nutritional benefits to eating fish. Many kinds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D.

This is the “final guidance” on fish consumption for pregnant women, according to the federal agency.

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READ MORE: Is eating too much fish during pregnancy tied to childhood obesity?

Critics aren’t happy with the recommendations, though. The Mercury Policy Project and the Environmental Working Group, for example, warned that pregnant women who follow this advice could be exposed to “far too much mercury.”

“Our research suggests that women who follow this advice will consume dangerous amounts or mercury. Women of childbearing age and pregnant women in particular need advice to reduce their exposure. This advice doesn’t do that,” Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior scientist, said in a statement.

For its part, the FDA said it took a “cautious and highly protective approach” when updating its advice so that pregnant women can still eat fish while avoiding high mercury levels.

READ MORE: Eating fish during pregnancy tied to brain boost in babies, study suggests

Health Canada says that when pregnant, women need more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets to help their babies with brain development.

It recommends that expectant moms eat at least five ounces of cooked fish every week. Read more about its recommendations.

The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that this group avoid raw fish, which may contain bacteria or parasites that can make you sick. Read more about its recommendations.

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See the FDA’s full guidelines.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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