What are the FDA recommendations for reducing mercury exposure?

Updated: Nov 05, 2018
  • Author: David A Olson, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Answer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and young children avoid eating fish with a high mercury content (>1 ppm), such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. This also includes fresh and frozen tuna (mercury content between 0.5 ppm and 1.5 ppm). Canned tuna has exhibited variable mercury concentrations, with one study finding that 55% of cans contained mercury levels greater than 1 ppm, with white tuna demonstrating higher levels than light tuna. [54]

From a nonprofessional perspective, this translates into a weekly consumption of 1 can (198g, or 7oz) of tuna for an adult. [55] Rather than ban the sale of these species, Health Canada recommends that they be consumed no more than once per week or once per month by children and by women of childbearing age. [56] Mercury levels in freshwater fish vary, but, in general, bass, pike, muskellunge, and walleye have high levels of mercury and should be eaten in moderation. Provincial guidelines for sport fish often mirror federal seafood recommendations. [57]


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