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Fish and Shellfish: Contamination Problems Preclude Inclusion in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Spring 2004 www.pcrm.org

Conclusion

Given the clear evidence that fish are commonly contaminated with toxins that have well-known and irreversible damaging effects on children and adults, public health policy should not encourage the consumption of fish. The risks are known, and especially for infants and women of childbearing age, significant.

Even if a fish recommendation were to carry a carefully-worded warning about how much and what types of fish might minimize potential risk from mercury toxicity, it would still be inadvisable. The other risks associated with fish consumption are also considerable--contamination with other bioaccumulated pollutants and diets that are already too high in saturated fat and animal protein to protect consumers from chronic disease. Further, due to the variability in levels of pollutants among and between species and individual fish, and to the fact that these toxins accumulate in the tissue of the fish so food safety practices at home will not reduce risk of contamination, consumers should not be encouraged to navigate these dangers, which they cannot truly minimize or control. Therefore, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine urges the members of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to reconsider the proposed recommendation that Americans consume 8 to 9 ounces of fatty fish per week.

Instead, PCRM’s doctors and dietitians recommend that the Committee discourage the consumption of fish and shellfish. Other, more healthful, foods from plant sources offer the full range of essential nutrients without the toxins and other health risks in fish.

Report compiled by Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D

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