GOED News Alerts: Analysis on events affecting EPA and DHA Markets

U.S. Fish Consumption Advice Updated

June 10: Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the highly anticipated draft updated advice “Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know,” which represents a revision to the current controversial advice “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish,” published over ten years ago and blamed for causing a reduction in fish intake and thus a reduction in EPA and DHA intake. The revision is intended to “encourage pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children to eat more fish and to eat a variety of fish from choices that are lower in mercury.” The advice is also being updated to bring it in line with the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

In addition to providing the following advice, there is an accompanying FAQ that provides greater detail (e.g. different types of fish with associated mercury levels): 
  • Eat 8-12 ounces of a variety of fish a week.
  • Choose fish lower in mercury.
  • Avoid 4 types of fish: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
  • When eating fish you or others have caught from streams, rivers, and lakes, pay attention to fish advisories on those waterbodies.
  • When adding more fish to your diet, be sure to stay within your calorie needs.
Over the years, there has been much pressure on the agencies, primarily the FDA, to revise the advisory report. For example, in March, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Mercury Policy Report filed a lawsuit against the FDA for delaying its report. In 2013, a group of senators wrote to President Obama asking for the FDA to finalize the guidance and in 2010, world-renowned fatty acid scientists urged FDA Commissioner Hamburg to finalize the advice.
While the draft guidance is a step in the right direction, a final draft of the guidance is far from complete. Public comments are being sought on both the content of the advice and how best to frame the advice for consumers. The FDA Advisory Committee on Risk Communications plans to convene a public meeting and there may be other public meetings around the country. None of these meetings have been scheduled. In addition, if the guidance is to be aligned with the Dietary Guidelines, it will need to be delayed until the publication of the 2015 revision. 

The guidance relies heavily on data that the benefits of omega-3 consumption outweigh the risks of mercury consumption. CAPT Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health gave a presentation at this year's GOED Exchange that discussed the theoretical rationale for updating the guidance. You can view this presentation by clicking the video below.

GOED will work with the Regulatory Committee to prepare comments and will continue to monitor the situation and report back to the GOED membership with important developments.  

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