scientific information associated with both nutrient intake and contaminant exposure from seafood, no summary metric adequately captures the complexity of seafood benefit/risk trade-offs. Thus, the committee developed a four-part qualitative protocol adapted from previous work (IOM, 2003) to evaluate and balance benefits and risks. Following the protocol, the committee considered consumption patterns of seafood; the scope of the benefits and risks associated with different patterns of consumption for the population as a whole and, if appropriate, for specific target populations; and changes in benefits and risks associated with changes in consumption patterns. It then balanced the benefits and risks to come to specific guidance for healthy consumption for the population as a whole, and, as appropriate, for specific target populations.
Seafood consumption has increased over the past century, reaching a level of more than 16 pounds per person per year in 2003. The ten types of seafood consumed in the greatest quantities among the US general population (from highest to lowest) are shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, tilapia, crab, cod, clams, and flatfish (e.g., flounder and sole). The nation’s seafood supply is changing, however, and this may have a significant impact on seafood choices in the future. The preference among consumers for marine types of seafood is leading to supply deficits, and seafood produced by aquaculture is replacing captured supplies for several of these types.
While seafood is recognized as a primary source of the omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, not all seafood is rich in these fatty acids. Among types of seafood, shrimp and canned light tuna are the two most commonly consumed, and they are not especially high in EPA and DHA. Eggs and chicken, although not particularly rich sources,1 may contribute to the EPA and DHA content of the US diet because of their frequent consumption. Relative to other foods in the meat, poultry, fish, and eggs group, however, seafood is generally lower in saturated fatty acids and higher in EPA, DHA, and selenium, all of which have been associated with health benefits.
Average quantities of seafood consumed by the general US population, and by several specific population groups, are below levels suggested by