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Go FIsh! An Analysis of Consumers' Understanding of the Health Risksof Consuming and Not Consuming Fish and Shellfish

Authors: Maureen L. Storey, PhD and Richard A. Forshee, PhDEditor: Gayle L. Hein
The Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy (CFNAP) at the University of Maryland

July 17, 2007


Go FIsh! An Analysis of Consumers' Understanding of the Health Risksof Consuming and Not Consuming Fish and Shellfish
Authors: Maureen L. Storey, PhD and Richard A. Forshee, PhDEditor: Gayle L. Hein
The Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy (CFNAP) at the University of Maryland

One recent and controversial risk-risk communication dilemma surrounds consumption of fish and shellfish.  Because of the significant health benefits of consuming fish, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association recommend consuming two to three servings of fish a week for a total of eight ounces.  In 2004, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a consumer advisory urging Americans to eat more fish.  But, the advisory also warned women of childbearing age, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and caregivers of young children to avoid consuming shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish during these sensitive lifestages.  That same year, FDA approved a qualified health claim for two omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) that are commonly found only in fatty fish.

With so much conflicting information about the health benefits and possible risk from mercury in seafood, CFNAP asked an important public health question:  how are consumers responding to this information about fish and shellfish?

Did the messages designed for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant and young children, reach those groups effectively or are there major gaps in awareness and understanding?

Go Fish! presents the results of CFNAP’s nationally representative consumer study examining Americans self-reported consumption of fish; their understanding of the potential health benefits and risks from consuming fish; and their knowledge of the types of fish that have higher or lower levels of methylmercury and those sub-populations that need to pay attention to the types of fish consumed.

Price: $200. Government and academic rate: $150 per copy; Patrons, donors, and friends of CFNAP: $100 per copy. Order form [PDF].

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