This week the FDA announced it will initiate a study on the role of seafood in child safety, growth and development.

The Food and Drug Administration has enlisted the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to do the independent study. In addition, the FDA is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the study.

The study is being conducted partly to support the goals of the FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan for reducing the exposure of babies and young children to mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium from foods.

An ad hoc committee of NASEM will be convened to examine associations between seafood intake — both maternal and child — and child growth and development. Specifically the committee will:

·  Evaluate dietary intake and seafood composition data provided by the sponsors;

·  Conduct systematic reviews of the scientific literature covering the areas of seafood nutrition and toxicology associated with seafood consumption and child growth and development;

·  Review existing sources of evidence on maternal and child seafood consumption and child growth and development; and

·  Develop an approach to synthesize the scientific evidence, and utilize that strategy to develop its findings and conclusions (quantitative and/or qualitative) about associations between seafood consumption and child growth and development. The committee’s approach to evidence synthesis will be described in its report.

The committee will evaluate when to or not to conduct a formal Risk Benefit Analysis, relative to risk-benefit factors including how to assess quality and uncertainty of a risk benefit analysis. It will also provide scientific information and principles that can serve as a foundation to evaluate confidence in the potential conclusions of a risk based analysis relative to these factors as well as identifying and commenting on additional context, including equity, diversity, inclusion and access to health care that is additive to the findings of a risk based analysis and any implications/applications capable of informing policy decisions by decision makers.

The committee will report of its findings, conclusions and recommendations, including research recommendations and recommended amounts of seafood to consume to support healthy growth and allow children to attain their full development.

“Seafood is part of a healthy eating pattern and provides key nutrients during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and/or early childhood to support a child’s brain, spinal cord, and immune system development,” according to the FDA.

“At the same time, seafood is the primary dietary source of mercury, which is spread throughout the environment by both natural and human-made processes. Mercury can damage the nervous system, and babies and young children are more vulnerable to the harmful health effects of mercury.”

Seafood can also be a source of exposure for other naturally occurring and human-made contaminants. The study will also help inform whether updates are needed for the current Advice about Eating Fish for children and those who might become or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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