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FDA hands seafood another win with new consumption guidelines

US agency puts more focus on the health benefits of fish consumption for pregnant women, new mothers and children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday released revised seafood consumption guidelines for expectant and new mothers, women who might become pregnant and children, putting a further focus on the health benefits of seafood consumption.

The new advice, which comes on the heels of revised labeling regulations for the health benefits of consuming omega-3s, updates January 2017 guidelines issued jointly from the FDA and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed at limiting exposure to mercury from fish consumption.

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The new guidelines do not change recommendations on fish consumption based on potential mercury levels, but add new details on seafood's place in a healthy diet, and its potential benefits to heart health and lowering the risk of obesity.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advised that people two years and older eat at least 8 ounces of seafood per week, and that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat 8-12 ounces per week, or two to three servings.

The FDA highlighting a quantifiable amount of seafood that women in these groups should be eating is new for the agency, National Fisheries Institute (NFI) spokesman Gavin Gibbons told IntraFish.

"What we see here is FDA incorporating USDA Dietary Guidelines more into their advice," he said. "We're happy to see that."

Data has shown that more than 20 percent of pregnant American women reported eating no fish in the previous month. Of those that did eat fish, half ate less than 2 ounces per week.

The new guidelines "can have a tremendous impact on future generations of American children," he said.

"The FDA’s goal with this document is to get pregnant women to eat, on average, as much as 6 times more seafood than they currently do," he noted.

The success of the efforts will be based on a consumption metric, Gibbons said.

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