The United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition
In the United Kingdom (UK), the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health sought advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) on the benefits and risks of fish consumption, with particular reference to “oily” fish (fish high in EPA/DHA). A joint SACN/COT subgroup was convened to deliberate and produce a report. The report (SACN, 2004) assessed the risks associated with consumption of seafood, weighed the nutritional benefits against possible risks, and developed coherent dietary advice for the public on the consumption of seafood.
A summary of the benefits and risks associated with seafood consumption was reviewed in the report. Among the conclusions reached by the SACN/COT regarding those benefits and risks associated with increased consumption of seafood and fish oils were that:
SACN endorsed the general population recommendation to eat at least two servings of fish per week, of which one should be oily, and agreed that this recommendation should also apply to pregnant women;
An increase in oily fish consumption to one serving a week, from the current levels of about a third of a serving a week, would probably confer significant public health benefits in terms of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease;
There is further evidence that increased seafood consumption might have beneficial effects on fetal development;
The evidence to support benefits at higher levels of consumption is insufficient to enable accurate quantification; and
Exceeding designated intake guideline ranges over the short-term would not be deleterious, but long-term exceedances could have deleterious effects in sensitive individuals. In the case of pregnant and lactating women, for example, a woman who had not consistently exceeded the guideline range previously, could increase her oily fish consumption throughout pregnancy and lactation above the guideline range (e.g., to two to three servings of oily fish a week) without detrimental effects from exposure to persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs.