Scientists call on FDA’s Hamburg to update fish recommendations

By Stephen Daniells in London

- Last updated on GMT

“Concerned” scientists from both sides of the Atlantic are urging Margaret Hamburg for the FDA to complete its 2009 draft assessment on fish consumption for pregnant women.

In a letter dated May 26, Prof Tom Brenna from Cornell University and Prof Michael Crawford from the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, UK, urge an “update [to] the FDA’s 2004 advice about fish consumption for fertile and pregnant women”​.

The letter, which can be read here​, says that advice issued in 2004 is now out of date and may now be “inadvertently causing harm”​.

Speaking to at the Celebration of DHA event in London, Prof Brenna explained that the 2004 advice for pregnant and fertile women was issued to protect the developing fetus from the harms of methyl-mercury pollutants in fish.

“The core problem is that the benefits of fish could not be appropriately considered in 2004,”​ state the scientists. “Current science has advanced to the point where it is no longer consistent with the recommendation to limit consumption of all fish to a maximum of 12 ounces per week for pregnant and lactating women and women who may become pregnant.

“There is persuasive new evidence that consumption of more than 12 ounces per week of most marketplace species will actually improve fetal neurodevelopment. This improvement occurs in spite of methyl-mercury in most, if not all fish.

“We commend FDA for its history of willingness to modify that advice when warranted by new information. The time for the next update has come,”​ states the letter.

Since the 2004 advice was issued, however, the science has moved on considerably, said Prof Brenna, and the scientists are now encouraging “FDA to complete work on this assessment on a priority basis”​.

The letter states: “Over a year ago, the FDA published its draft assessment based on this new approach. It produced estimates of the benefits and risks of fish consumption that were generally consistent with the current research findings. FDA has said that it will not consider updates to the 2004 advice until it has addressed all the comments on the published draft and completed the new assessment. Consequently, we encourage FDA to complete work on this assessment on a priority basis. Mothers and children worldwide deserve your best efforts to provide advice consistent with the best science available.”

Interested parties can also add their name to the letter by clicking the link at the end of the letter.

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