Is Tuna Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

QUESTION

Dear Nutritionist,
Is tuna safe to eat during pregnancy? I have heard that it can contain mercury. Are there certain brands of tuna that are safer to eat than others?

Thank you.
Lanette

ANSWER

Hello Lanette,
fish dinnerYou definitely need to watch your intake of tuna as well as other fish during pregnancy due to methylmercury content. Some fish have higher contents than others. The most recent guidelines (March 2004) advise not eating shark, swordfish, King Mackerel, or tilefish during pregnancy because they contain high levels of mercury.

The guidelines also advise eating no more than 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five common fish that are low in mercury include shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Albacore ("white") Tuna has a higher mercury content than canned light tuna, so it is advised that when you are choosing your two meals of fish or shellfish per week, that you choose no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna per week. In addition you should 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.

To find the most recent government guidelines on the intake of fish and shellfish during pregnancy visit the FDA Website. Return often as the guidelines are consistently updated as new information becomes available. The information will also answer help to answer any other questions you may have on fish and shellfish during pregnancy.

-- Kimberly, RD LD

Kimberly Tessmer

Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD LD has been a registered dietitian since 1992 and is also an Ohio licensed Dietitian. Her educational achievements include a Bachelor of Science in Technology (Dietetics) from Bowling State University in Bowling Green, OH. She currently owns and operates a consulting business called "Nutrition Focus" www.nutrifocus.net, in which she specializes and offers services in the areas of weight management, general nutrition, authoring, menu development and a variety of other services.

To date Kim has authored three books including "The Everything® Nutrition Book", "Tell Me What To Eat If I Have Celiac Disease", and "The Everything® Pregnancy Nutrition Book". In addition, Kim has written numerous articles for various health/nutrition web sites and magazines including Bally Total Fitness Magazine, Well and Healthy Women Magazine and Healthology.com, Inc as well as continuing education courses for www.care2learn.com. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and the ADA Practice Group, Nutrition Entrepreneurs.