Mercury in fish
A recent pamphlet from Food Standards Australia contains information on mercury levels in fish, particularly relevant for pregnant women, women planning children, and children.
Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and accumulates in fish as methylmercury. All fish contain some methylmercury. Big, longer living fish such as swordfish and shark/flake tend to accumulate higher levels. This can damage the nervous system - unborn babies are particularly vulnerable because their brains are developing so rapidly.
The level of methylmercury in most fish is very low and regulations are in place that set a limit on the amount of mercury that can be present in fish sold. As most people consume only moderate amounts of fish, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risk.
The pamphlet also details the number of serves of different types of fish that can be safety consumed. For children up to the age of six years:
- 1 serve per fortnight of flake, swordfish and marlin and no other fish that fortnight
- 1 serve per week of orange roughy or catfish and no other fish that week
- 2-3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed above
- 1 serve equals 75 grams
For more information log on to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
Source: Tiny Morsels, May 2004, Community Nutrition Unit, Tasmania
The information provided in this article is intended as a guide only. Always consult your doctor if you or your child is suffering any medical complaint. Any websites referred to by Australian Family contain information moderated by government and medical institutions or organisations.
This article was first published in Australian Family Magazine, November 2004. Updated July 2009.