June 1, 2012
Consumers Need More Guidance When It Comes To Choice of Fish
In a first-of-its kind summary of fish consumption choices, a team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital has determined that consumers are not getting all the information they need to make informed decisions about fish consumption. Their research is published in the June 1 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
The researchers, led by Susan Korrick, MD and Emily Oken, MD of Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), summarized the issue of fish consumption choice from toxicological, nutritional, ecological, and economic points of view through evaluation of the scientific literature, public health guidelines and fish consumption advisories made in the United Sates. They found that there is no one place that gives consumers a complete view of the advantages and disadvantages of various fish species. "Our research shows that there is no one perfect fish when considering nutritional value, toxicity rates and the environmental and economic impact," said Oken. "Consumers are forced to decide what tradeoffs they are willing to make. But as a consumer standing in a store, it is difficult to understand the pros and cons of a fish purchase, because the amount of readily available information is limited."
Due to overwhelming toxicity of many fish species, many experts are now even suggesting that consumption should be decreased, not increased. This is due partly to both mercury contamination and the Fukushima nuclear disaster which has contaminated a large percentage of fish species in the ocean with radioactive isotopes (see 8 Fish and Seafood Varieties You Should Never Consider Eating). Other factors include the prevalence of genetically modified feed in farming practices which makes up half of the world's consumption.
"Our research highlights the need for the development of clear and simple consumer advice that describes the multiple impacts of fish consumption," said Korrick. "Despite caveats, fish is generally a healthy food; the challenge is providing advice that is both comprehensive and accessible so consumers don't give up eating fish out of frustration."
Additionally, researchers also emphasize the need for policy and fishery management interventions to ensure long term availability of fish as an important source of human nutrition.