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Grocery stores and nutrition educators no longer have an excuse to skirt consumer inquiries about concerning eating seafood during pregnancy and breastfeeding, thanks to a new nutrition education flyer that helps moms and moms-to-be understand the important benefits of fish consumption while staying within current government guidelines.
Grocers got their first look at the new educational handout designed to communicate nutrition advice about fish in a targeted and balanced manner at this week's 2008 Food Marketing Institute's Consumer Affairs Seminar in Boston.
"Despite multiple and large research studies that clearly show the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy, pregnant women in the U.S. are still eating less than two ounces of seafood a week," said Jennifer Wilmes, a registered dietitian with the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and member of the Seafood and Pregnancy Taskforce. "So we have to be thoughtful about the messages we are giving them."
The flyer is consistent with government advice and several new studies suggesting women need to be eating two to three meals of a variety of fish a week to set their babies up for optimal health. Fish is one of the only naturally-rich food sources of the type of omega-3s needed for eye and brain development, said Wilmes, adding that communications prior to the latest science often overemphasized speculation about harm from trace amounts of mercury in commercial seafood.
A taskforce of dietitians, food communicators, and maternal health experts from FMI, NFI, the International Food Information Council Foundation, and the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition participated in a review of the science and the creation of the flyer. It combines the Institute of Medicine's and the Food and Drug Administration's guidance as well as the latest independent seafood science.
"Our research shows that after reading the new flyer, women are encouraged to eat a variety of fish a few times per week, while they're still aware that there are four fish to avoid," Wilmes said.
The flyer comes out just weeks after Harvard Medical School published a landmark of over 25,000 mothers and babies that found eating plenty of fish during pregnancy leads to better child development.
"There's a real need to combat the misinformation that's out there," said Wilmes. "Retailers and nutrition educators who want to provide their customers with advice based on sound nutrition science will benefit greatly from this piece."