Four fish to avoid eating

Did you know that four fish have been placed on the “do not eat” list due to their high levels of mercury?

Even with greater awareness of American food systems and federal agencies to promote important food safety information, it is imperative to continuously update and provide key recommendations to protect people’s health. Michigan State University Extension strives to educate youth and adults about health, nutrition and safe food advisories including safe and unsafe fish to eat.

Many people eat fish regularly in their diet. Fish markets, grocery, stores and restaurants offer consumers a nice variety of finfish and shellfish options. Selecting and buying fish can no longer just be about availability, taste or price. Are you aware that four fish have been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be unsafe to eat due to their typically high levels of mercury? Making the “do not eat” list are King Mackerel, Shark, Swordfish and Tilefish.

All fish advisories due to increased mercury levels should be taken seriously. This is especially important for vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and older adults. Learning about current fish advisory information and sharing it with family, friends and others help deliver key messages to a greater audience.

Mercury ends up in oceans, lakes and streams from industrial pollution and natural sources. Once mercury is in the water it becomes methylmercury, which is harmful. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they naturally feed and it begins to accumulate in the muscle tissue or filet. Mercury does not produce an odor so it cannot be detected, and it does not affect the taste. The level of mercury contamination varies with different varieties of fish based on size and age. Larger fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish are at greatest risk for high levels of mercury contamination. There is no method to remove the mercury in fish.

MSU Extension also offers five simple tips for eating safe fish to encourage people to eat fish that supports a heart healthy diet.

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has a new Eat Safe Fish in Michigan booklet that shares helpful information about mercury and other chemicals in Michigan fish and how to choose, clean and cook fish safely. Knowledge can be powerful. Utilize current fish advisory information to confidently enjoy the wide variety of Michigan fish and fish from other states.

Did you find this article useful?