December 18, 2017

Consumer Reports States Pregnant Women Should Not Eat Tuna

Consumer Reports has published a special report about eating fish and mercury exposure. They say that to limit your risk, choose the right fish. And they advise pregnant women to avoid eating tuna altogether. They also recommend that anyone who eats 24 ounces or more of fish per week should avoid species high in mercury.

Pregnant woman in kitchenAlmost all seafood contains the toxic metal in different amounts. Too much mercury can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in children and fetuses. Adults who consume too much mercury can have problems with speech, sleep, walking, and fine motor coordination. More than 95% of the methylmercury in seafood is absorbed into your body when you eat it.

Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have increased by 30% in the past 20 years, and are expected to increase by another 50% by 2050. Industrial mercury emissions are increasing. A 6-ounce serving of salmon contains 4 micrograms of mercury; the same portion of tuna has 60 micrograms.

Back in June 2014, the government released a new report on fish consumption recommendations, stating that women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to become pregnant should eat between 8 and 12 ounces of fish per week. This is the first time any minimum level for fish consumption has been set by the government. Consumer Reports has identified 20 species of seafood that can be eaten several times every week without too much mercury exposure, but the agency disagrees with the government about tuna consumption. They don’t think pregnant women should eat any tuna.

Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, said in a statement, “we’re particularly concerned about canned tuna, which is second only to shrimp as the most commonly eaten seafood in the U.S.” The FDA responded to this concern, stating, “it is possible for pregnant and breast-feeing women, and women who might become pregnant, to increase growth and development benefits to their children by eating more fish than these groups of women typically do.” FDA research indicated that one in five pregnant women ate no fish at all in the previous month, and most of those who did consumed less than 4 ounces per week.

Consumer Reports states that the lowest-mercury fish include shrimp, scallops, sardines, wild and Alaska salmon, oysters, squid, and tilapia. The next best choices include haddock, pollock, flounder, sold, Atlantic Croaker, domestic crawfish, catfish, trout, Atlantic mackerel, crab, and mullet.

Fish to be avoided include swordfish, which can contain 170 micrograms per 6-ounce serving, shark, King mackerel, Gulf tilefish, marlin, orange roughy, grouper, halibut, bluefish, Chilean sea bass, sablefish (black cod), Spanish mackerel, and fresh tuna (except skipjack). A chart accompanying the report states that a 125-pound women would exceed the EPA’s “safe” consumption limit for mercury by eating 4 ounces of albacore tuna, which contains more mercury than chunk light tuna, every week. A 48-pound child exceeds the “safe” limit by eating more than 1.5 ounces of tuna per week.

And unfortunately, FDA data shows that 20% of the light tuna samples it tested since 2005 have double the average level of mercury listed in those older government reports. Consumer Reports adds that some types of tuna, such as big eye and yellowfin are very high in mercury. Those types of fish are used in sushi and should be avoided by vulnerable groups.

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