By PAT FAHERTY
Special to the Beacon
Two federal agencies are updating recommendations to women and young children to eat more seafood from varieties lower in mercury.
And both federal and state guidelines show bay scallops and some other local freshwater and saltwater fish fall in that category. Scallops are currently in season.
In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency put out a draft of advice for public comment.
It encourages pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and young children to both eat more fish and to eat a variety of fish from choices that are lower in mercury.
Referring to shellfish and fish collectively, the draft recommends eight to 12 ounces of fish – two to three servings – a week.
The updated advice cautions pregnant or breastfeeding women to avoid four types of fish with high mercury levels: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; and king mackerel. In addition, it recommends limiting consumption of white (albacore) tuna to six ounces a week.
Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. The mercury level in scallops is rated similar to pollock and catfish.
Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits,” said Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Water. “This updated advice will help pregnant women and mothers make informed decisions about the right amount and right kinds of fish to eat during important times in their lives and their children’s lives.”
Karen Parker, spokeswoman for Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said questions regarding fish consumption are referred to the Florida Department of Health.
It provides similar health information for the same category of consumers of saltwater and freshwater fish. The department lists scallops, mullet, crab and cooked oysters in its lowest mercury category. A pocket size clip-out guide is available at www.florida health.gov.
The department also publishes the 2014 Guide to Eating Fish Caught in Florida by species and location and consumption limits by freshwater and coastal waters.
Freshwater locations in Levy County include Otter Creek, Suwannee River, Waccasassa River and Withlacoochee River. Coastal Waters are grouped broadly by species.