Mombu 2015-12-08 17:36:34
Mercury in fish: your questions answered
Find out more about our latest advice about mercury in fish.
Agency updates advice to pregnant and breastfeeding women on eating
Read the press release
Statement on a survey of mercury in fish and shellfish
Committee on Toxicity statement
What is the problem with mercury in fish?
Nearly all fish contain traces of mercury and in most fish this is not
a problem. But certain fish contain relatively higher levels of
Who could be affected by the mercury and why?
This is primarily an issue for pregnant women, women who intend to
become pregnant and women who are breastfeeding. This is because of
the possible risks to the developing nervous system of the unborn
child and to an infant, if the mother were breastfeeding.
Which fish are we talking about?
Mothers to be and breastfeeding mothers should avoid shark, marlin and
swordfish. They should also limit their consumption of tuna.
What about children?
Children under 16 should avoid shark, marlin and swordfish, but they
can still eat tuna.
What about other people?
High levels of mercury can affect anyone, but while no one else needs
to avoid shark, marlin and swordfish, the Agency does advise limiting
its consumption to once a week.
Can I still eat tuna?
Yes, everyone can still eat tuna. But the mercury that it contains
means that the Agency is advising that if you are pregnant, intending
to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you shouldn t eat more than two
medium-sized cans or one fresh tuna steak per week. This is comparable
to six rounds of tuna sandwiches or three tuna salads per week.
What about children and any other adults?
This advice does not apply to children or any other adults.
I m pregnant and have been eating a lot of tuna, have I harmed my
Although this cannot be ruled out, you are unlikely to have caused
your unborn child any harm, as this is a precautionary limit with a
safety margin built in. But to be on the safe side, you should now
limit the amount of tuna you eat.
I m pregnant and want to still eat fish, what should I do?
You should not eat shark, marlin or swordfish and you should limit
your consumption of tuna. Everyday favourites like cod, haddock and
plaice are not affected at all by this advice. And there are other
oily fish with known health benefits that you can eat as an
alternative to fresh tuna, such as mackerel, herring, pilchard,
sardine, trout or salmon.
Is fish still an important part of a healthy diet?
Yes. And most of us don t eat enough of it. The Agency recommends that
people eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should
be oily, as oily fish provide known health benefits, such as
containing nutrients that protect against heart disease.
Why is this advice being issued now?
Because independent scientific experts have looked carefully at the
levels of mercury in certain fish and the possible risks it could
pose, particularly in relation to the developing nervous system of the
unborn child and infant. Because of those possible risks, they have
recommended a more precautionary approach to advising the groups it
could affect. The safety guideline they have applied is almost five
times lower than that for the general population.