Concerned that the government’s advice regarding seafood consumption is too simplistic, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its own consumer guide on the subject. “The developing brain during pregnancy and in childhood is remarkably damaged by mercury and also repaired or ‘boosted’ by omega-3 fatty acids,” said EWG Senior Analyst Sonya Lunder. “Another key group of people who benefit from omega-3s are people who are at average or high risk for heart disease. The omega-3s in seafood appear to reduce stroke and heart attack risk.” The guide just published by EWG includes a calculator for consumers to input their weight, age, gender, pregnancy status and whether they have heart disease. The user then gets a personalized list of which species to eat, which to approach with caution and which to avoid based on how much mercury and omega-3 fatty acids they contain. Combining data from the government and independent scientists, EWG presents a weekly mercury percentage, weekly omega-3 level, and most sustainable choice for each species. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued draft updated advice on fish consumption that recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children eat at least eight ounces and up to 12 ounces (two to three servings) per week of a variety of fish that are lower in mercury to support fetal growth and development. The guidance includes a list different species, along with mercury and omega-3 information. It recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women avoid tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel. In addition, it states that consumption of white (albacore) tuna should be limited to six ounces per week. EWG agrees that many Americans would benefit from eating more seafood and that many people are at low risk for heart disease, including vegetarians and other adults with an otherwise healthy diet. But EWG disagrees with the blanket recommendation that adults should aim to eat eight to 12 ounces of fish each week. Their concern is that, if every American followed that advice, seafood consumption could triple, putting enormous pressure on global fisheries. The group also argues that some people following the FDA/EPA guidance could consume too much mercury, and others, too few omega-3s. Many of the popular seafood species listed are low in omega-3s and “you would need to eat five or 10 servings a week to actually get enough omega-3s,” Lunder pointed out. “If you’re eating fish instead of a cheeseburger, that’s one thing,” she added. “But if you’re choosing between salmon and shrimp, there are differences there.” EWG also believes that the safe level of mercury established by EPA in 2001 and applied in the recommendations may actually be too high to protect developing fetuses and young children. A major issue for the group is FDA and EPA’s tuna limit. EWG recommends a more cautious maximum of two servings of albacore tuna per month. For light tuna, they say no more than one serving a week for children and two servings for pregnant or nursing women. “This is our best take at consumer-friendly information that highlights the real differences between seafood, and we believe that the federal agencies should provide some similar materials,” Lunder said. Before issuing final advice this fall, the agencies are considering public comments and will seek the advice of FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee in November.