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Methylmercury in fish: FDA updates its advice for consumers

(02.06.2014)


Schemata of the pollution pathway for mercury in fish. Consumption advice is for non-pregnant adults
Mercury in fish. Consumption advice is for
non-pregnant adults.
(graphic credit: Wikipedia)
Background:
Mercury in the form of methyl- mercury tends to bioaccumulate in marine organisms and gets biomagnified along the marine food-chain. For most people, intake of mercury from eating seafood isn’t a health risk. But the FDA has warned that pregnant women, those who might become pregnant, and young children avoid certain types of high-mercury fish because of concern that too much could harm a developing brain. The U.S. government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines incorporated the FDA’s warnings to say that pregnant or breastfeeding women should consume 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week. But it said they should not eat tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel because of the mercury content, and it advised limiting white albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week. This is due to high mercury levels in these larger fish.

FDA update of mercury-in-seafood advice
Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said on Friday May 30th that the agency will update guidance on mercury in varieties of seafood and what that means. That’s a long-awaited move aimed at helping women better understand what to eat when they’re pregnant. Consumer groups have sued the agency, saying that the warnings weren’t clear enough about what to avoid.

“It’s an advisory, not an effort to mandate labeling,” Hamburg said on ABC News. “Different seafood products do contain different levels of mercury, and so different seafood products can be rated in terms of levels of mercury.”

Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the groups that sued, said the new advisory will be an improvement if it gives consumers better information, especially if that information could be kept at fish counters in grocery stores and retail outlets.


Related information

U.S. FDA: Draft Updated Advice by FDA and EPA: Fish - What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know
USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
U.S. FDA: Mercury and Methylmercury (in Food)
U.S. FDA: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish (March 2004)
U.S. FDA: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2010)

U.S. EPA: What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish
U.S. EPA: Fish Consumption Advisories
U.S. EPA: Mercury
GotMercury.org: Mercury calculator (calculate the mercury intake from fish meals)
BRI - Report: Mercury in the Global Environment: Patterns of Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations and their Relationship with Human Health
Zero Mercury Working Group - Report: An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and A Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure, December 2012



Related EVISA Resources:

Link Database: Mercury exposure through the diet
Link Database: Environmental cycling of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental cycling of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of methylmercury
Link Database: Environmental pollution of inorganic mercury
Link Database: Toxicity of mercury



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last time modified: June 12, 2014





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