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Food Safety Focus (3rd Issue, October 2006) – Food Incident Highlight

Mercury in Seafood

A local university has recently published a study which found that high levels of mercury were detected in newborn infants' blood and considered that the amount of fish consumed by pregnant women was directly proportional to the level of mercury in infants.

Mercury, an element that naturally exists in the environment, is considered as a natural contaminant of food. It may cause adverse effects to the nervous system, especially the developing brain. Foetuses, infants and young children are more sensitive to such toxic effects.

Previous risk assessment studies conducted by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for secondary school students concluded that major toxicological effects of mercury were not expected via dietary exposure. Fish was identified as the main dietary source of mercury and the large predatory fish, such as swordfish and tuna, had the highest concentrations.

Moderate consumption of fish is recommended as it is an excellent source of high quality protein and low in saturated fat. However, pregnant women, infants and young children should avoid consuming excessive amount of predatory fish. Please visit the CFS website for further information.

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