Methyl Mercury in Seafood


What fish might contain high levels of methyl mercury?


Why should I care?

If you are a Pregnant woman, a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, a nursing mother, or a young child the FDA advises that you avoid eating the fish listed above.  These fish may contain high levels of methyl mercury that, if eaten regularly, could pose developmental risks to unborn children.

How does mercury get into fish?

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, and it can also be released into the air through industrial pollution.  Mercury can fall from the air and accumulate in streams and oceans where, aided by bacteria, it undergoes a chemical transformation into methyl mercury, which can be toxic.  Fish absorb methyl mercury from water as they feed on aquatic organisms.  Larger fish (like those listed above) feed on other fish throughout their longer lives and thereby accumulate the highest levels of methyl mercury.

What about other fish?

Along with the warning above, the FDA also acknowledges that seafood can be an important part of a balanced diet for pregnant women.  It is a good source of high-quality protein and nutrients and is low in fat.  Having a variety of shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish and farm-raised fish in your diet allows you to safely enjoy eating them as part of a healthful, balanced diet. 

How can I learn more?

Phone the 24-hour U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Information Line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-33663.)

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