Good Fish, Bad Fish


Eating fish is good for your health, except when it contains unsafe chemicals. Foods and nutrition researchers at Purdue University say a new technique can make screening fish for some contaminants much faster.

Foods safety scientist Charles Santerre and his colleagues try to find better ways to see if fish is safe.

Seafood often contains contaminants such as mercury and PCB's. These can be particularly harmful to infants and young children who can get a hefty dose from mom during pregnancy or nursing or from eating certain fish themselves.

The team is using a new chemical technique that lets them see how much PCB is in the fish. Santerre says up until recently, it would have cost between $200 and $500 and it would have taken weeks to analyze one sample. The alternative costs maybe $25 to $40 per test.

Santerre reminded us that it's important to eat fish because it is rich in nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids. But he warned that women in their childbearing years should be careful.

If you're pregnant or nursing or if you are a young child, there are four species of fish that should be totally avoided according to Santerre:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish

Santerre also says that some fish, such as tuna, can be eaten by pregnant and nursing mothers but in limited quantities. He says the best place to get information about fish you catch yourself is your state's dept. of health.

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