Fish You Should Avoid Eating Or At Least Limit In Iowa, Wisconsin, & Illinois
I spent this weekend with family enjoying the great outdoors. When I do go camping, I always try to hit the local watering hole for some much needed "fish therapy." By that, I mean I go fishing and now have a tag along in my son so it's never a boring experience. I like to catch the fish. My son likes to eat the fish. Unfortunately, due to the dreaded forever chemicals and metals in our water supplies, limiting your fish intake is now a necessity.
Fish has long been hailed as a nutritional powerhouse, boasting loads of health benefits. It is renowned for its lean protein content, low saturated fat levels, and its status as a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a vital role in cell development, brain health, and overall health. Additionally, fish provides a wealth of vitamins and minerals often lacking in the standard American diet, including calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin D.
Consuming fish is linked to a healthier heart, supports proper growth, and boosts the intellectual development of children. Encouragingly, health organizations, including the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and various national bodies, recommend that individuals of all ages, including women and young children, incorporate fish into their meals at least twice weekly to gain the optimal health rewards of a balanced diet. Notably, pregnant women are encouraged to include fish in their diets to ensure proper fetal development. Additionally, fish consumption is associated with a decreased risk of numerous diseases and ailments in adults; those include cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, prostate cancer, stroke, and autoimmune diseases.
Despite these numerous nutritional advantages, concerns persist about the safety of consuming fish due to the presence of trace amounts of chemicals in their tissues. These chemicals stem from both natural and man-made sources, are present in the water where fish reside, and can accumulate within fish over time. Three particular chemicals warrant attention: mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and chlordane. Mercury, a naturally occurring element, finds its way into the environment through industrial pollution and accumulates in water bodies, transforming into methylmercury through a bacterial process. As fish feed in "contaminated" waters, they absorb methylmercury. Accumulation in fish varies based on dietary habits, lifespan, and nutritional levels within the food chain.
What's safe for consumption when the chemicals/metals are present?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set action levels for these chemicals in commercially available fish: 1 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) or part per million (ppm) for methylmercury, 2 ppm for PCBs, and 0.3 ppm for chlordane. The general population is considered safe to consume fish containing these chemicals at these levels with no adverse health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also established screening values for these chemicals based on risk assessments, setting lower thresholds.
What fish should be avoided on limited for consumption?
Iowa waters are generally safe to eat from, even if the fish have a trace amount of chemicals in their tissue. When it comes to predatory fish like walleye, bass and others, you'll want to eat smaller ones. Panfish including crappie, bluegill and yellow perch are safe to eat with virtually no risk.
That being said, some fish are more susceptible to these issues in their tissues. The body of water your fish is sourced from determines the limits and issues. Each state has its own advisory boards for fish consumption: Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin. Doctors suggest that eating 1-2 servings per week of low-contaminant fish or shellfish can benefit your health. Little additional benefit is obtained by consuming more than that amount, and you should rarely eat more than 4 servings of fish within a week. In this instance, we will be using generalities on fish availability and those fish with the most issues across state lines and water ways. Additionally, children are considered any individuals under the age of 15.
- Largemouth Bass: Contaminated with methylmercury. If the fish is less than 15 inches, limits are 1 meal per week for women of childbearing age and children. If it is 15 inches or longer 1 meal per week for all except for women of childbearing age and children. They are to be capped at 1 meal per month.
- Smallmouth Bass: Contaminated with methylmercury. If the fish is less than 15 inches, limits are 1 meal per week for women of childbearing age and children. If it is 15 inches or longer 1 meal per week for all except for women of childbearing age and children. They are to be capped at 1 meal per month.
- Common Carp: Contaminated with PCBs. All sizes of fish are to be limited to 1 meal per week for all.
- Walleye: Contaminated with methylmercury. Limits are 1 meal per week for women of childbearing age and children.
- Pike: Contaminated with methylmercury. Limits are 1 meal per week for women of childbearing age and children.
- Channel Catfish: Contaminated with PCBs. All sizes of fish are to be limited to 1 meal per week for all.
- Muskellunge: Contaminated with methylmercury. Muskie are particularly prone to having high levels of mercury due to their position atop the food chain. Women of childbearing age and children are advised not to eat this fish. All others are to be limited to 1 meal per month.
- Shovelnose Sturgeon: Contaminated with PCBs. All sizes of fish are to be limited to 1 meal per month for all.
Food for thought on your next fishy meal.
The FDA and the EPA have prepared a joint advisory regarding consumption of fish. The advisory recommends that women who are planning to become pregnant; pregnant; nursing; or young children limit their consumption of fish that may have a higher content of methylmercury than other fish. This group of people can reduce any potential health risks from eating potentially contaminated fish by:
- Eliminating the eating of the potentially more contaminated marine (or
“saltwater”) fish species sold in grocery stores such as: Shark, Swordfish,
King Mackerel, or Tilefish
- Choosing smaller-sized fish to eat when consuming locally-caught fish
- Limiting your fish consumption to 12 ounces or two meals per week
- Limiting your consumption of albacore or “white” tuna to six ounces or
one meal per week
- Limiting your consumption to the lean (non-fatty) portions of the fish
- Following these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to
your children, only use smaller portions