The National Fisheries Institute continues to support its previous dietary advice to limit methylmercury exposure by pregnant women, and will not revise its recommendations on fish consumption as a result of a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report.

The NAS reviewed several studies of in-utero mercury exposure from fish consumption to provide scientific guidance to the Environmental Protection Agency in developing a reference dose (A reference dose is an estimate of the daily exposure level that is safe over a lifetime). The NAS review simply confirmed that EPA’s previously-established reference dose is scientifically justifiable. Several major studies have been conducted due to the concern that developing fetuses are sensitive to the adverse effects of methylmercury. However, in formulating its guidance, the NAS did not include the results of a large study in the Seychelles that showed no negative effects in a population whose exposure is many times that of the U.S.

“At this reference dose, our previous recommendations on fish consumption for pregnant women remain valid,” said NFI President Richard Gutting, Jr. “This means mothers-to-be can still enjoy a meal of shark or swordfish once a month.” The NFI recommendations are based on FDA guidelines, which suggest that pregnant women limit their consumption of large, long-lived predatory fish. These fish accumulate methylmercury over time. The FDA prohibits the sale of any fish with mercury levels of 1 part per million or higher.

The NAS said the review ” … indicates that the risk of adverse effects from current methyl mercury exposure in the general population is low.” Most people eat a variety of fish, most of which are low in methylmercury (0.1 to 0.5 ppm). Because of the benefits of fish consumption (fish is a very good source of high-quality protein, is low in fat and contains heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids), the NAS report does not recommend replacing fish in the diet with other foods. To put the risk in perspective, per-capita seafood consumption in countries such as Japan and Iceland is seven times higher than in the U.S. Life expectancies in these countries are the longest in the world.

The National Fisheries Institute is a non-profit trade association representing companies involved in all aspects of the fish and seafood industry.

NOTE: All NFI releases and related information can be found on NFI’s Web page at http://www.nfi/org.