by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News
New moms, and moms-to-be, should eat two to three servings of seafood each week according to a new study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After reviewing ten-years’ worth of science, medical and scientific experts have issued draft advice that is significantly different from previous guidance issued in 2004.
“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”
Gulf Seafood Institute’s Executive Director and mother of two, Margaret Henderson said, “We’re happy to see FDA moving in the right direction. Getting accurate advice about seafood to pregnant women is crucial, especially when it’s been wrong for so many years.”
Currently pregnant women only average 1.8 oz of seafood each week, the new FDA study stresses the importance of 8 to 12 oz of seafood a week for soon to be mothers. The recommendation translates into two to three servings of low-mercury fish per week, and applies to breastfeeding women and those who might become pregnant.
Fish proven to be low in mercury content include Gulf shrimp, as well as Pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod.
“The guidance issued by the FDA is a good first step toward educating pregnant women in a clear and simple way about the benefits of including seafood in their diet. The latest research shows that seafood rich in Omega-3 and other nutrients improves brain and eye developments in unborn children,” said Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. “I will continue working with doctors and other health professionals during the comment period to ensure this guidance is issued in a way that helps pregnant women feel empowered to make the most informed decisions about nutrition during their pregnancy.”
Last year, the Senator led 21 other Senators in sending a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to end years of delays and finalize the updated FDA seafood advisory for pregnant women. She has also worked to include language in appropriations legislation urging the administration to update its guidelines.
“The Gulf coast is the nation’s leading producer of so many healthful seafood products, including soft shell crab, shrimp and oysters. With fish being such a strong part of our culture, the Gulf seafood community understands inherently the value of seafood to a young mother’s diet. Sadly, that health message doesn’t always translate to the greater population. With this guidance and the help of Congressional leaders like Senator Landrieu, the Gulf Seafood Institute looks forward to the federal government clarifying, once and for all, the true value of seafood to pregnant women and their families,” said Henderson.
Following issuance of the new guidelines, there will be a 30-day public comment period. GSI will be working closely with Senator Landrieu and other champions on this issue to make sure the guidance is refined so women can understand, without a doubt, the importance of seafood in their diets.
“The advice is not perfect. But it is a draft, so now the hard work begins,” explained the Florida mother. “Communicating to pregnant women is one thing, ensuring they act on that communication is another. Just like reviewing the science is one thing but ensuring it is applied properly is another. It’s time for FDA to roll up its sleeves.”