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Eating seafood while pregnant

June 02, 2007

Re "Scientists warn of toxic risk to fetuses," May 25

Women of childbearing age need to follow certain guidelines for food consumption to ensure the optimal health of their babies. But this article fails to mention recent studies from such authorities as the Institute of Medicine and the University of Bristol that examine the benefits associated with eating seafood -- a nutrient-dense protein, rich in omega-3 fatty acids -- during pregnancy.

As a food scientist, I know that the scientifically proven health benefits associated with eating fish far outweigh any potential risk from exposure to trace amounts of mercury that can be found in fish. Because of the unequivocal health benefits of seafood, the Food and Drug Administration guidelines recommend that women who are or may become pregnant eat 12 ounces of fish per week. To keep mercury exposure to a minimum, the FDA advisory says women of childbearing age should avoid only four types: shark, tile fish, swordfish and king mackerel.

Although well-intentioned, the information in your article has the potential to frighten mothers away from seafood altogether, which could deny babies substantial benefits.

Findings recently published in the Lancet, a worldrenowned, independent scientific journal, indicate that eating more seafood than recommended by the FDA during pregnancy is associated with increased child cognitive development.

BARBARA BLAKISTONE

Director, Scientific Affairs

National Fisheries Institute

McLean, Va.

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