Monday, 15 October 2007

Coalition splits over fish guideline for pregnant women

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A controversial recommendation by a child-health coalition that pregnant women eat lots of fish and not worry about mercury contamination was not endorsed by many of the group's members, who are now distancing themselves from that position.

The recommendations, announced last week by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, are that pregnant, breast-feeding and postpartum women should eat at least 12 ounces of seafood a week, if not more, for the nutritional benefits. The coalition is an Alexandria, Va.-based non-profit group with nearly 150 member organizations.

The controversy surrounds the coalition's silence about the four high-mercury fish the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency say women and young children should avoid: swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.

Controversies such as this do not aid anyone in determining what is good for their health.

But it's also worth noting that it's not only mercury that is commonly found in fish. Human-raised fish are fed with feeds that may contain harmful substances. Fish in the ocean may acquire toxins other than mercury.

Until a definitive study on fish safety -- not just mercury levels -- the confusion will continue.

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