U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has updated its guidance about eating fish that incorporates the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), 2020-2025.

This update revises the advice that was last issued in 2019.

Nutrients in fish can support a child’s brain and immune system development. The FDA recommends eating fish as part of a healthy diet, and encourage children and people who are or might become pregnant or breastfeeding to eat fish that are lower in mercury.

“Our advice can help them choose which fish to eat and how much to eat based on mercury. We continue to recommend that children and people who are or might become pregnant or are breastfeeding eat a variety of fish from our “Best Choices” category, as they are lower in mercury,” says FDA.

The agency notes that with the availability of a variety of fish choices including canned, frozen and fresh fish, its guidance allows people to make choices that work for them.

For parents, caregivers, and people who are or might become pregnant or are breastfeeding, FDA’s advice can help them choose which fish to eat or serve their children and how much to eat based on mercury. The updated advice includes new information explaining that children 1 year of age can eat about 1 ounce of fish 2 times a week, from the “Best Choices” list.

It underscores the need for fish consumption during pregnancy as moderate scientific evidence shows it can help with the baby’s cognitive development.

The guidance also outlines that fish provide key nutrients that children need for their brain, immune system, and spinal cord development. The nutrients omega-3 and omega-6 fats, iron, iodine, and choline support brain development. Choline also supports the development of the baby’s spinal cord. Iron and zinc support children’s immune systems.

According to FDA, strong evidence shows that eating fish as part of a healthy diet may help your heart health. Moderate scientific evidence shows that healthy diets that include fish are associated with lowering the risk of becoming overweight or obese and the risk of hip fractures, colon cancer, and rectal cancer.

However, the agency clarified that its overall advice about eating fish has not changed but only the look as they have made it easier to navigate.

“We did not add or delete any types of fish listed on our chart. We did not change how we categorize the different types of fish on the chart, although we noted a subset of the “Best Choices” fish listed in the DGA that are even lower in mercury,” clarified FDA.

The food regulator noted that this subset can help government food programs and others who feed children to provide the amounts of fish recommended in the DGA while also following its advice to limit mercury.

“We also did not change the recommended servings or serving sizes. We recommend that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat fish 2 to 3 times a week (for a total of 8 to 12 ounces) and clarify that children should eat fish 2 times per week (for a total of 2 to 8 ounces, depending on age) from the “Best Choices” category in the chart,” FDA explained.

FDA’s  Closer to Zero plan

Starting 2022, the FDA plans to evaluate the current research on mercury in food, including fish, consumed by babies and young children as part of the FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan.

The FDA’s  Closer to Zero plan, identifies actions the agency will take to reduce exposure to toxic elements from foods eaten by babies and young children, to as low as possible.

It will take a holistic view at the role of fish in the diet, considering both components that are detrimental such as mercury and beneficial like nutrients,  and evaluate their respective and interacting roles in child development.

“Our aim is to have the most up-to-date understanding of the science on fish consumption in a whole diet context, which will help us determine if and how to update our fish advice in the future,” said FDA.

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