Coalition's Guidelines On Fish Consumption For Pregnant Women Misleading

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fish Consumption For Pregnant Women

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition'srecent recommendations for fish and seafood consumption for pregnantand breast-feeding women are "misleading" and a "classic example ofindustry-driven marketing under the cloak of scientific research,"Andrea Kavanagh, director of the National Environmental Trust's Pure Salmon Campaign, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Kavanagh, Los Angeles Times, 10/31).


The coalition is a not-for-profit group with nearly 150 members, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, CDC and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.The guidelines, released earlier this month, recommended that pregnantand breast-feeding women should consume at least 12 ounces of fish andseafood weekly for optimal brain development of fetuses, infants andyoung children. The group recommended eating ocean fish, such assalmon, tuna and sardines, which are highest in omega-3s. Theguidelines also recommended higher fish and seafood consumption toprotect women's health.

The coalition's guidelines conflict with current FDA and Environmental Protection Agencyguidelines. FDA and EPA in 2005 issued separate warnings that adviseyoung children, pregnant women, nursing women and women of childbearingage to avoid consuming swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefishbecause of high mercury levels. The warnings also recommended thatthose groups consume no more than 12 ounces of fish weekly and eat nomore than six ounces of canned albacore tuna weekly (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report,10/11). Some members of the coalition declined to endorse theguidelines, and some members criticized the coalition for accepting a$60,000 grant from the National Fisheries Institute, a fishing industry trade association, to help fund the research (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 10/18).

Kavanaghwrites that it is "disturbing" that the coalition would "encourag[e]pregnant women to increase their consumption of fish despite thewell-known risk of mercury and other contaminants commonly found incertain seafoods." In addition, the "researchers who developed thereport ... didn't bother to vet its decidedly contentious findings andadvice with the coalition's wider membership before public release,"Kavanagh writes.

The "selective repackaging of science, combinedwith slick marketing to sell more fish to pregnant women and women ofchildbearing age, show the height of corporate irresponsibility,"Kavanagh writes, concluding that the report is "one fishy marketingscheme that consumers should throw back" (Los Angeles Times, 10/31).

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Reprinted with permission can view the entire KaiserDaily Women's Health Policy Report, search thearchives, and sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.


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