FDA Issues New Draft Seafood Advice for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB)
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Advice Encourages Pregnant Women to Eat No Less Than Two Seafood Servings Weekly

Washington, DC (June 10, 2014) – Following extensive scientific reviews of more than 110 seafood studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new draft advice that encourages expectant and breastfeeding moms to eat a variety of seafood 2-3 times each week to maximize brain development for babies. In a novel approach for FDA, the updated advice is based upon the net effect of eating seafood—that is, the overall positive health outcomes of seafood’s beneficial nutrients like omega-3 DHA fats along with traces of mercury. Scientific analysis shows that eating a variety of seafood 2-3 times each week provides pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers with the beneficial omega-3 DHA fats their babies need without introducing concerns. Additional key takeaways from the proposed advice are available in a summary document here.

“Eating seafood in pregnancy has been a major source of confusion for pregnant women, and this advice helps to clear up some of that confusion,” said Ashley Roman, MD, MPH, Obstetrician and member of the Perinatal Nutrition Working Group of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB). “It’s now time to teach patients how to incorporate more fish into their diets to make sure they don’t miss out on the brain benefits for their babies and heart benefits for themselves.”

The average pregnant woman in the United States currently eats less than two ounces of seafood each week. Therefore—based on the new advice to consume 8-12 ounces weekly, most expectant moms will need to quadruple the amount of seafood they eat. The FDA advice shares just four to avoid—shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel—all rarely-eaten forms of fish. Women are being told to focus on eating a variety of fish.

Although there is clarification on the minimum amount of seafood pregnant women should eat, the draft advice will require consumer testing to ensure it actively and effectively encourages pregnant women to eat more fish. The FDA is seeking comments on both the substance of the advice and how best to frame the document for consumers so that it is understandable and influential. HMHB looks forward to participating in the comment period during which FDA will improve and finalize their new advice.

About HMHB
As the home of the Text4baby mobile health program and direct information channel for pregnant women and families across the country, HMHB is a recognized leader and trusted resource for information on maternal and child health. HMHB also serves as a collective voice to educate, convene, advocate, and facilitate change as the representative organization for community groups, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers and institutions, parent advocates, and policymakers working across family health. More information about HMHB can be found at