Fish consumption review welcomed by industry

Posted by Editorial on 5th February 2009

A US review of official fish consumption advice has been welcomed in Australia.

Mr Roy Palmer, an expert on seafood and health, said today the US review suggested higher consumption of seafood conferred benefits in terms of infant development, heart attack and stroke.

The review was published recently by the US Federal Government’s Food & Drug Administration (FDA), following the publication of a number of studies suggesting the health positives in seafood consumption far outweighed any negatives.

Mr Palmer, Leader of Seafood Services Australia’s “Global Seafood for Health Network”, said Australian authorities should closely monitor the US developments. “The results of recent studies clearly indicate present suggested limits in the United States, and in Australia, may be doing more harm than good,” he said. “The harm to health at all ages and stages of life by suggesting the current low levels of seafood consumption looks to be higher than any benefits. This applies in particular to lower brain development in infants and life expectancy in older people.”

“The US FDA review basically is looking at the likely benefits to health from nutrients in fish like Omega-3 oils versus any ill effects from traces of mercury,” Mr Palmer advised. “A number of medical studies suggest the actual outcome of the present suggested limits is negative. The whole population, and especially mothers-to-be and breastfeeding mothers, should be eating more seafood, not less.”

Mr Palmer said the US FDA currently advised pregnant women eat up to 340 grams (12 oz) of fish each week, while, in Australia, the equivalent recommendation from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was 450 grams (16 oz). “However, research has suggested benefits in babies’ IQ from higher intakes. A team from the US National Institutes of Health, looking at the effects of Omega-3 intake on 9,000 mothers and their children, found mothers with the lowest intake of the essential fatty acid had children with a verbal IQ six points lower than the average. Importantly those with the highest consumption of Omega-3-rich fish like Mackerel and Sardines, had children, at age three-and-a-half, with the best measures of fine-motor performance,” he reported.

The just-released FDA report also found the current level of seafood consumption in the US was averting over 30,000 deaths a year from coronary heart disease (CHD) and 20,000 deaths a year from stroke. “The strong suggestion is that, by increasing consumption, even more lives would be saved,” Mr Palmer suggested.