- Pregnancy & Childbirth
- Attachment Parenting
- Family Nutrition
- Family Wellness
We are writing to commend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for publishing its new draft report reviewing the net effect of eating fish for pregnant women and their babies and consumers at risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. As physicians, researchers and nutritionists who care for women and their families and who study these same issues, we urge the FDA to quickly finalize its review and revise the guidance, which is now more than five years old.
Low seafood consumption has measurable negative consequences on public health. It is a significant problem among Americans - especially pregnant women - who are uninformed about fish’s essential developmental benefits for their babies. A recent phone survey, conducted by the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, reveals that women, especially pregnant women, don’t eat enough fish to obtain optimal health benefits. The average American woman eats 2.97 ounces of seafood per week, and just 1.89 ounces per week during pregnancy. This is below the government-recommended 12 ounces, and is concerning because fish is the best dietary source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The vast majority of evidence today suggests that DHA and EPA are vital for a healthy pregnancy and there is a link between eating fish and advanced visual, brain, motor and behavioral skill development in infants. The benefits of this link appear to last throughout childhood, impacting lifelong health and mental capacity.
Consumers broadly are confused by messages that focus on mercury content, as well as to whom the messages apply. A University of Maryland survey shows that when asked to whom the federal seafood advice applies, a large number of individuals identified the elderly, pre-teens and teenagers, and men, while nearly one third believe this guidance applies to all Americans.
Women, particularly pregnant women, are increasingly seeking information on nutrition. They desperately want and need to know the facts on what is safe and healthy to eat during pregnancy. FDA’s draft report is a critical step toward making revising current fish guidance, so women walk away with an encouraging message about benefits in pregnancy, heart disease and stroke.
We encourage the FDA to finalize this draft report on the net effect of seafood consumption and to revise its advice to pregnant and nursing women about eating seafood. A clear, consistent public health message will benefit women, their children and the broader U.S. population.
If you agree and would like to sign this letter please email: Seafood@AskDrSears.com