Standardized health recommendations have stated for years that children and pregnant women should limit their intake of some seafood to two or three meals a week due to the potentially high levels of mercury found in fish and shellfish. According to the FDA website (last updated in 2006), those fish posing the highest risk of mercury exposure include shark, tilefish, mackerel king, and swordfish.
However, a recent report from the FDA has suggested that these recommendations may be too strict, and that increasing seafood intake may have other health benefits, particularly for those with a history of heart disease, which outweigh the risks of mercury.
These conflicting reports are creating a rift between the seafood industry, who praises the change in attitude, and the EPA and other environmental groups, who claim that the FDA lacks scientific evidence to back up its revised claims, and who have criticized the FDA for “play[ing] politics with the health of our families.” says Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California.
Fish consumers are advised to educate themselves regarding the risks of high mercury levels, most of which include potential harm to developing nervous systems, and can result in forms of brain damage or learning disabilities in children. Another important factor to be aware of is that not all fish contain levels of mercury above the suggested limit, and some fish process mercury in different ways, allowing it to be blocked from entering their flesh.
Seafood such as halibut, salmon, shrimp, scallops, and lobster are all considered safe for consumption, and should not be seen as mercury risks.