Monitoring mercury: FDA partnership investigates impacts of seafood toxins on child development
12 Oct 2022 --- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to launch an independent study with Federal Partners to investigate the role of seafood consumption in child growth and development and bring clarity to toxins exposure from a seafood diet.
The partnership is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Environmental Protection Agency, carried out by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).
The study plays a part in the agency’s “Closer to Zero” plan and aims to clarify the role of seafood consumption and children’s growth and development in terms of safety.
Pros and cons of seafood
Containing critical nutrients during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and early childhood for developing the brain, spinal cord, and immune system, seafood is at the same time the primary dietary source of mercury, stresses the FDA.
“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 FDA recommends that children and women who are planning to get pregnant eat seafood that is low in mercury. The agency previously highlighted canned, frozen and fresh fish as suitable and convenient options, as fish provides vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals for human development.
NASEM plans to conduct systematic reviews of scientific literature on toxicology and seafood nutrition with the help of an expert committee. It’s expecting the gathered data to evaluate how consuming seafood impacts development and growth in children. The results will be made public in 18 months.
“This study is designed to provide the most up-to-date understanding of the science of seafood consumption and child growth and development. Better understanding the science on mercury exposure from food is an important step in the cycle of continual improvement in the FDA’s Closer to Zero Action Plan,” notes the FDA.
The Closer to Zero plan was initiated last year and focused on advancing research and taking action to reduce exposure to toxic elements. It will do so through an iterative science-based approach consisting of four stages – evaluate, propose, consult and finalize.
The FDA also highlights that the report’s findings and other relevant data and information will be used to “advance policies and programs that support healthy child growth and development.”
Until the results are gathered, the agency will continue to advise the relevant societal group on seafood varieties that are limited in mercury.
Apart from mercury, the Closer to Zero plan also works toward reducing exposure to arsenic, lead and cadmium.
Edited by Beatrice Wihlander
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