A little of what you fancy?

Last updated at 14:39 24 June 2004

UK's food watchdog, which has long praised the benefits of eating oily fish, is advising girls and women who may become pregnant not to have too much salmon, trout, fresh tuna, herring, mackerel or sardines

Until now the FSA has advised adults to eat at least two portions of fish a week, of which one should be of the oily variety.

But after a review of the plus points of eating oily fish, which include preventing heart disease, against the risks from pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), the agency has set out some upper limits.

Men and boys, and women over child-bearing age or who did not intend to have children, can eat up to four portions of oily fish a week.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women are encouraged to eat between one and two portions a week to boost their health and to help the neurological development of their baby.

But the agency advises them not to eat large amounts of fresh tuna or the white fish species of shark, marlin and swordfish because of the possibility of mercury contamination.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the FSA, said "Eating oily fish is a simple way for people to reduce the risks of heart disease. But most people don't eat any.

"Eating just one portion of oily fish a week has clear cut health benefits.

"This extensive review of the scientific evidence has reduced the uncertainty about how many oily fish people can safely eat without the benefits being outweighed by the risks."

Professor Alan Jackson, from the University of Southampton, who chaired the group of experts, said: "It was a challenge to weigh up both risks and benefits.

"We tried to focus in on exactly what were the benefits and risks, not just for the population as a whole, but for any particular groups."

The average adult eats one third of a portion of oily fish a week and seven out of 10 never have any oily fish in their diet.

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