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ANSES - French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Published on 16/07/2013

A summary of the Agency's recommendations for fish and fishery products

Fish and fishery products have valuable nutritional qualities which make them an especially sound food choice. Eating fish twice a week, including one portion of oily fish, is therefore recommended. However, since they are in permanent contact with the environment, the foods made from fish and fishery products may be contaminated by chemicals as well as by certain micro-organisms. The Agency has issued a number of opinions on the assessment of the health risks linked to consumption of these foods as well as their benefits. An opinion summarising all of these recommendations was published today.

 

 

Fish and fishery products (seafood, shellfish, etc.) have valuable nutritional qualities that make them an excellent choice for meals for the whole family. Eating fish twice a week, including one portion of oily fish, is therefore recommended. However, since the characteristics of their environment and the biological specificities of certain species mean that the foods made from fish and fishery products may be contaminated by chemicals (in particular PCBs and methylmercury) as well as by micro-organisms (bacteria and certain parasites), special recommendations for consumption should be followed, especially by certain susceptible populations (pregnant women, young children, etc.).

During the drafting of the nutritional consumption recommendations for the French National Programme for Nutrition and Health (PNNS), the Agency was consulted to provide the scientific foundation for these recommendations. Since then, ANSES has issued a number of opinions on the assessment of the health risks linked to consumption of these foods as well as their benefits. These various studies have made it possible to refine recommendations for consumption of fish and fishery products with regard to the frequency and types of fish to eat in order to benefit from their nutritional qualities without exposing oneself to any particular risks. An opinion summarising all of these recommendations was published today.

 

Recommendations for the general public

  • Eat two portions of fish per week, including one portion of oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, smoked trout) rich in long-chain omega 3. 
  • Vary consumption of fish species as well as their sources.  
  • Avoid eating high bioaccumulating freshwater fish species (eel, barbel, bream carp, catfish) more than twice a month.
  • Cook fresh marine fish thoroughly. 
  • Raw fish should be consumed in the following manner:
    • Gut fish rapidly after purchasing, or ask your fish vendor to do it for you
    • Freeze fish for 7 days in a domestic deep-freezer prior to consuming 
  • Avoid eating shellfish if it does not come from an authorised and monitored farming area.
  • Eat raw seafood and shellfish within 2 hours of taking it out of the refrigerator.
 

Storing fish and fishery products

To ensure quality, we recommend you:

  • Use a cool bag for transportation of the product from the place of purchase to your home;
  • Gut fish rapidly after purchasing, or ask your fish vendor to do it for you;
  • Store the product in the coldest part of your fridge, between 0 and 4°C;
  • Eat it on the day of purchase if possible, or within 48 hours or purchase. 
 

Recommandations destinées aux populations sensibles 

  Young and adolescent girls Women of childbearing age Breast-feeding women
Pregnant women and children under 3 years
 

Other susceptible populations 

(elderly, immunosuppressed, etc.)

High bio-accumulating freshwater fish

(eel, barbel, bream carp, catfish)

No more than once every two months No more than once every two months No more than once every two months No more than once every two months No more than twice a month

 

Wild predatory fish

Monkfish (angler fish), bass, bonito, eel, emperor, grenadier, halibut, pike, sea bream, skate, cutlassfish, tuna, etc.

 
No special recommendations No special recommendations Keep to a minimum Keep to a minimum No special recommendations

Swordfish, marlin, Portuguese dogfish, shark and sea lamprey 

No special recommendations No special recommendations Keep to a minimum Keep to a minimum No special recommendations
Special hygiene measures should be taken See general recommendations See general recommendations See general recommendations

 

Avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and smoked fish
 
Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
 
Avoid eating shelled crustaceans sold already cooked (cook crustaceans yourself)
 

 

Find out more: Benefits and risks of fish and fishery products

Like meat, fish is an excellent source of protein. It also contains minerals as well as vitamins. Depending on the species, fish is also an excellent source of long-chain omega 3, which is especially important nutritionally since it plays a role in preventing cardiovascular disease as well as in the development and functioning of the retina, brain and nervous system. 

However, sea and river fishery products may also be contaminated by environmental pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs and methylmercury, that may have adverse effects on health in the event of overexposure. These foods may also be contaminated by pathogenic micro-organisms  originating in humans, animals, water or soil, and which may be found in fresh or sea water. Shellfish, which filter water, can accumulate large amounts of bacteria, viruses and parasites, and are therefore a source of human contamination if they come from areas other than authorised and monitored aquaculture areas.