Pregnant women fret about eating canned tuna

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Pregnant women fret about eating canned tuna

Amid fresh controversy in the United States over whether it’s safe for pregnant women to eat tuna because of mercury levels, the Korean government yesterday highlighted its own guideline that more than 100 grams (3.53 ounces) per week of deep-sea fish such as tuna is “not okay.”

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety recommends women who are pregnant, breast feeding or in childbearing age to consume 100 grams or less weekly of all kinds of deep sea fish like tuna. This is equivalent to one small can of tuna.

“Blue-colored fish [like mackerel] contains plenty of good protein, so it is good for pregnant women and fetuses,” said Ahn Man-ho, a ministry spokesman. “But when it comes to all types of deep-sea fish [like tuna], there is a probability that they contain high amounts of methyl mercury, which is why pregnant women should limit consumption.”

Studies have showed that consuming too much mercury can damage brains and nerves of young children.

The remarks by the ministry came after controversy was stirred in the United States over whether it is okay for mothers-to-be to consume tuna. A U.S. government agency said canned tuna was not only safe but recommended a minimum amount women in certain categories should eat.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report with the Environmental Protection Agency that recommended pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to consume 8 ounces (227 grams) to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week. Low-mercury fish includes light canned tuna. (White or albacore tuna has more mercury.)

It was the first time the FDA stated a minimum level of fish consumption. Previously it only had a maximum consumption level.

Consumer Reports, a consumer advocacy group in the U.S., opposed the FDA’s recommendation and issued its own guideline that pregnant women should not consume any low-mercury fish.

“Consumer Reports disagrees with the recommendations from the FDA and EPA on how much tuna women and children may eat,” the group said in a release Thursday. “We don’t think pregnant women should eat any.”

The statement by Consumer Reports was immediately criticized by the National Fisheries Institute, an organization that represents the fishing industry in the U.S. including tuna companies.

“Though we urged Consumer Reports to do a thorough balanced and science-based job, that obviously did not happen,” it said. “Minimal research would have presented reporters literally hundreds of independent seafood studies from the FDA to the WHO that clearly demonstrates the net benefit gained from eating seafood, like tuna.”

BY KIM HYE-MI, LEE EUN-JOO [angie@joongang.co.kr]






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