The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued advice regarding fish consumption geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children, make informed choices when it comes to fish that are healthy and safe to eat.

To help these consumers more easily understand the types of fish to select, the agencies have created a reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:

  • “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week)
  • “Good choices” (eat one serving a week)
  • “Fish to avoid”

The FDA found that half of pregnant women surveyed ate fewer than 2 ounces of fish per week, far less than the amount recommended. Because the nutritional benefits of eating fish are believed to be important for growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood, the agencies are advising and promoting a minimum level of 2-3 servings (8-12 ounces) of lower-mercury fish per week. The maximum level of consumption recommended is consistent with the previous recommended level of 12 ounces per week.

For adults, a typical serving is 4 ounces of fish, measured before cooking. Serving sizes for children should be smaller; however, it is recommended that they eat fish once or twice a week.

What we think

Seafood’s relatively healthy reputation should only be enhanced by these new recommendations. The question is whether regulatory guidance is sufficient to encourage consumers to increase their consumption. Considering the advice essentially replicates recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines, the answer is likely no.

However, fish brands, producers and meals could consider highlighting these recommendations on-pack, at least as part of an effort to inform consumers and, if possible, as a means of encouraging parents to introduce fish to their children’s diets. Such efforts might well consider focusing on consumers aged 18-24, as Mintel’s Fish and Shellfish US 2016 report reveals that more than one in five indicate these younger consumers never eat any type of fish or shellfish in a typical month.

Billy Roberts is a Senior Analyst, Food and Drink at Mintel, based in the Chicago office. Billy previously worked as Executive Editor covering consumer insights and new food and beverage trends with a leading trade publication.

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