Information Update - Health Canada's revised assessment of mercury in fish enhances protection while reflecting advice in Canada's Food Guide

    OTTAWA, March 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Health Canada has completed a review of
the science on mercury in fish, and is putting additional measures in place to
protect Canadians while encouraging them to follow the fish consumption advice
contained in the new Food Guide.
    Health Canada's standards for mercury in fish were already some of the
most stringent and protective in the world. They are now being strengthened
even further to focus on certain predatory fish, which tend to have higher
levels of mercury because of their relative size, lifespan and diet. These
fish, which had previously been exempted from Health Canada's standard, will
now be subject to a 1.0 parts per million mercury limit. This new standard
will apply to fresh and frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin and
orange roughy. Other fish, including canned tuna, will still be required to
meet the existing 0.5 parts per million standard.
    Health Canada's updated advice reflects the new standard being put in
place, stresses the important nutritional benefits of eating fish and reflects
advice provided in Canada's Food Guide. For the large predatory fish now
subject to the new standard, the general population can eat up to 150 g per
week of these fish species combined. However, women who are or may become
pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can eat up to 150 g per month. Young
children between 5 and 11 years of age can eat up to 125 g per month. Very
young children between 1 and 4 years of age should eat no more than 75 g per
month of these fish species.
    Health Canada's review also identified the need for advice to specific
Canadians related to canned albacore tuna. This advice was released in
February 2007 and applies to women who are or may become pregnant,
breastfeeding mothers and children. This information is available on the
Health Canada
( Web
    These changes are the result of a major review that considered the latest
scientific information about fish consumption and mercury. It looked at the
risk of negative health effects for Canadians of all ages from exposure to
mercury through commercial fish, and also considered the health benefits of
fish consumption in general. It is the most comprehensive national assessment
on mercury in fish done to date, the results of which are now available on the
Health Canada Web site.
    Fish and seafood can be an important part of a healthy balanced diet and
most Canadians do not need to be concerned about mercury exposure from eating
fish. However the types of fish available for sale in Canada has changed over
the years and science is regularly updated as new information is discovered.
As a result, and based on the most recent information about mercury levels in
retail fish, some changes are being made to Health Canada's standards and
advice on mercury in fish to help Canadians incorporate the right kinds and
amounts of fish into their diets with confidence.
    Canada's Food Guide recommends that Canadians eat at least two Food Guide
servings (of 75 grams each) of fish each week. Canadians are encouraged to
choose fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, herring,
sardines, char, Atlantic mackerel and rainbow trout. These fish also tend to
be low in mercury.
    Health Canada is also committed to working with partners and stakeholders
to develop a broad strategy for communicating with Canadians about mercury in
fish. This strategy will explore how best to clearly communicate this
information to Canadians so that they can make more informed decisions about
the fish they eat.

    Health Canada sets national standards and regulations for food safety
based on the latest scientific information available. The department regularly
reviews new information as it becomes available to ensure that its policies,
standards and regulations are up to date and effective in protecting the
health of Canadians.

    More information is available at:

    Health Canada's updated guidance & advice
    Qs & As about mercury in fish 
    Health Canada's updated health risk assessment 
    and risk management documents
    Previous Information Update 
( on mercury
in canned albacore tuna.

    Egalement disponible en français

For further information:

For further information: Media Inquiries: Paul Duchesne, Health Canada,
(613) 954-4807; Public Inquiries: (613) 957-2991, 1-866 225-0709

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