FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Connecticut Department of Public Health
October 16, 2008 Contact: William Gerrish
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Connecticut Food Association (CFA) today unveiled a statewide campaign touting the healthy benefits of eating fish while pointing out the species that should be limited in the diet.
“Make Healthy Fish Choices,” a guide developed by the DPH and CFA for women and children, explains the type of fish to eat in order to enjoy their healthy benefits, while reducing the risk of ingesting certain chemicals. The guides and informational take-home cards are available at participating supermarkets across the state.
“As public health practitioners we encourage people to eat more fish for the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but we also urge people to limit eating some specific fish species because of the risk of toxins, such as mercury,” stated DPH Deputy Commissioner Norma D. Gyle, R.N., Ph.D. “People should not be afraid to eat fish, but people who consume large amounts of fish on a daily or weekly basis need to understand their risk.”
Seafood in the diet is beneficial because it contains high levels of protein and nutritious omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to preventing heart disease and are particularly important to pregnant women and women of childbearing years because of their crucial role in brain development of unborn children.
Unfortunately, some fish absorb chemicals such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals can build up in their body and damage their nervous system. The developing fetus and young children are most sensitive. Women who eat fish containing these chemicals before or during pregnancy or while they are nursing may have children who are slow to develop and learn. Long term exposure to PCB’s may also increase cancer risk.
“The sign program emphasizes that fish is part of a healthy diet but that there are possible hazards from eating too much of certain species that are contaminated with mercury or PCB’s,” stated Stan Sorkin, CFA Executive Director. “It is the food industry’s responsibility to effectively communicate this information to our consumers. We are pleased to partner with DPH to help
Volunteering CFA members are posting the informational sign for consumers as to what species of fish are better to eat at fish counters. Counters also have available “Healthy Fish Choice” reference cards in Spanish and English that consumers can take home with them. The “Healthy Fish Choice” card provides recommendations for the types of fish to eat and how many times a week for healthy benefits. It also lists what fish to avoid and reduce your risk to chemicals. The amount of a possible chemical a person could ingest depends on the kind of fish they eat, how often they eat it, and how much they eat at each meal.
Consumers can look at the fish counter to see if your supermarket is participating in this program. You can also get the “Healthy Fish Choice” guide and other information on types of fish caught in specific water bodies in Connecticut by visiting the DPH web site at www.ct.gov/dph and click “Programs and Services” then click the “Fish Consumption” program link, or call 1-877-458-FISH (3474).
The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state. To contact the department, please visit its website at www.ct.gov/dph or call (860) 509-7270.