Regarding mercury levels, how much fish is safe to eat per week?

What is a safe amount of fish to eat per week for an adult female (past pregnancy age) and male in regard to mercury levels?

J. Katz


Heavier people -- both men and women -- can tolerate more mercury than thinner people, according to the World Health Organization. Some general guidelines by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are that shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish have the highest levels of mercury, and that pregnant women and children should avoid them. Others should limit intake of those fish to once a week.

Fish low in mercury are shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, pollock and catfish -- and a daily serving of these should be safe for most people, according to federal agencies. For details on mercury levels in fish, go here.

The health pros and cons of eating fish were addressed in a Sept. 4, 2006 Los Angeles Times story, “Benefits, With a Catch.” In it, nutrition scientist Cathy Levenson of Florida State University suggested that combining fish that have high levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury is the safest bet.

Levenson’s top 10 choices, based on those two factors: salmon, herring, sardine, shad, freshwater trout, North Atlantic mackerel, whitefish, Pacific mackerel, flounder and pollock.

-- Susan Brink