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Eating Fish and Shellfish While Pregnant
by Jennifer J. Francis, MPH, RD/LD

Jennifer FrancisQ. I was wondering if there are certain fish and shellfish to avoid while pregnant? Are there any healthy fish to eat while pregnant? Thanks.

A. The FDA has issued a warning that pregnant women should avoid the folowing fish due to high levels of methylmercury which can harm the fetus:

  • shark
  • swordfish
  • king mackerel
  • tilefish

Your particular area may have additional warnings about local kinds of fish. For instance, here in Maine, it is advised that pregnant women eat NO freshwater fish caught in Maine. Call your local fisheries and wildlife department to find out more.

You should also avoid refrigerated smoked seafoodish becasue of the risk of Lysteria monocytogenes contamination. From the FDA, "Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel is most often labeled as nova-style, lox, kippered, smoked, or jerky. These types of fish are found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens."

As far as other types of fish, the FDA recommends limiting all other types of fish and seafood to an average of 12 oz per week, and strongly encourages that women choose a variety of fish, rather than eating the same type all the time. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.

For more information on how to prevent certain foodborne risks during your pregnancy, visit the FDA's Food Safety for Moms-to-Be.

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