Dietary advice on fish consumption
Fish is recommended food and consumption of fish should be increased. Fish contain healthy fatty acids, several vitamins and minerals and a lot of protein. Fish are a particularly good source of n-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. The useful fatty acids contained in fish have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The National Nutrition Council recommends that
- fish should be eaten at least twice a week
- different fish species should be varied in the diet.
Exceptions to dietary advice on fish consumption
Despite the favourable nutritional qualities of fish, salmon or trout and herring caught in the Baltic Sea, particularly in the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland, may subject consumers to higher than normal levels of dioxins and PCB compounds which are harmful to health. Also, higher than normal levels of methylmercury can be derived from predatory fish caught in inland waters, particularly pike, but also from pike caught in the sea. The older the fish, the more contaminants will have been accumulated in it. For these reasons the following special recommendations have been issued to children, young people and people at fertile age.
Large Baltic herring and wild-caught salmon
Large herring, more than 17 cm in length (whole fish), can be eaten once or twice a month and as an alternative to large herring salmon or trout caught in the Baltic Sea can be eaten once or twice a month.
Pike and predatory fish from inland waters
Pike caught in the sea or inland waters can be eaten once or twice a month.
In addition to these recommendations
- consumers who eat fish from inland waters on an almost daily basis should also reduce their consumption of the following predatory fish that accumulate mercury: large perches, pike perches and burbots
- pregnant women and nursing mothers should not eat pike due to the mercury risk
Fish contaminants and dietary advice
The purpose of the dietary advice is to ensure safe consumption of fish. The advice concerns dioxins, PCB compounds, mercury and cesium-137 contained in fish. The safety assessments are based on a portion size of 100 g of fish. If the portion eaten is smaller, fish can be eaten more often. Herring as well as salmon or trout caught from the Baltic Sea and predatory fish from inland waters can be eaten from time to time. In summer, for example, they can be eaten in larger amounts, as long as the total annual consumption is balanced and restricted.
Part (up to one third) of the dioxins and PCB compounds accumulated in fish can be removed by skinning the fish before preparing it as food. The exceptions to dietary advice do not apply to small herring, less than 17 cm long (whole fish). Filleted herring are usually large, more than 17 cm in length.
The dioxin and PCB levels in fish from inland waters are normally low, and the mercury levels in other lake fish are lower than in pike. The mercury and cesium-137 levels in fish vary from one lake to the other.
Farmed fish contain only low levels of dioxins and PCB compounds, thanks to the control of fish feed quality.