Q: A friend told me not to give my daughter fish because of the risk of mercury poisoning. Is it okay for young children to eat fish?
A: It’s too bad that methyl mercury has made families wary of serving fish. Fish is not only an excellent source of protein and low in fat, it’s the best source of omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) essential for brain development.
The FDA recommends high risk groups including young children, pregnant women, women capable of becoming pregnant and nursing moms limit low-mercury sources of fish to no more than 12 ounces per week. This amount is still much more fish than most Americans eat. The advice for children is the same except to provide smaller-than-adult portion sizes. Pregnant women and young children should also avoid raw fish (sushi).
Low mercury sources of fish include salmon, trout, shrimp, tilapia, pollock and light canned tuna. Limit canned albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week. Avoid big fish that is higher in mercury including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Kidsafeseafood.com is a great resource when it comes to fish choices and recipes for children.
When eating fish caught by family or friends always check local advisories for safety. If you can’t find any information, limit intake to 6 ounces and make that the only fish you eat all week.
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This information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not take the place of medical advice. Please verify with your healthcare provider.
For more on what to feed your kids see our Nutrition for Children section