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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Federal Advisory Updates - 2004

Advisories on fish consumption can change to protect public health as new data are collected and reviewed by state and federal agencies.  Also, these agencies on occasion offer different advice for fish consumption.  New Jersey is working with other agencies and is committed to developing the most useful, consistent advice possible.  For the latest information, call one of the numbers below.

Federal Advice on Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

2004 EPA and FDA Advice For: Women Who Might Become Pregnant
Women Who are Pregnant, Nursing Mothers, Young Children

Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet. Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development. So, women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits.

However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are advising women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid some types of fish and eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

By following these 3 recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.

  1. Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  2. Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
    • Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
    • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
  3. Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week.

Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.

If you would like further information, please contact one of the agencies below.

Some of the advisories listed herein may be changing. For the most up-to-date information, please contact:

NJ Department of Environmental Protection
NJ Department of Health and Senior Services

For background information contact: State and Local libraries for Administrative Code 7:25-14,18A

For information on other advisories:

DE Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (302) 739-4506
NY Department of Health 1-800-458-1158 ext. 27815
PA Department of Environmental Protection (717) 787-9637


US Food and Drug Administration, 1-888-SAFEFOOD or Seafood Hotline @ 1-800-FDA-4010
or http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/seafood1.html

 US Environmental Protection Agency


Office of Science
Dr. Gary A. Buchanan, Manager
428 East State Street
P.O. Box 409
Trenton, NJ 08625

Phone: (609) 984-6070
Fax: (609) 777-2852

For Information regarding this site, please contact Terri Tucker.

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Copyright State of New Jersey, 1996-2009
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: December 2, 2009