Young Finns have poor knowledge of the recommendations regarding fish consumption
The general recommendations for fish consumption, which are based on the health benefits of fish, are well known in Finland. About 90 % of those who responded to the questionnaire knew that fish should be eaten at least twice a week. It is also known to the majority (70 %) that it is recommended that varying species of fish should be eaten.
The recommendations for consumption of fish and the information available on the subject are best known by the oldest age group, that is to say those over 65, and least known by those under 25. Those who consume a lot of fish know the recommendations better than those who seldom eat fish. Women know the general recommendations for consumption of fish better than men, that is to say that fish should be eaten twice a week and that the species consumed should be varied.
Compared to the general recommendations for consumption of fish, the facts about the accumulation of environmental toxins in fish are less known on average. According to research 60 % of the Finns know that the fish in the Baltic Sea, especially herring and salmon have high levels of dioxins. About 40 % of the Finns are aware of methyl mercury accumulating in large predatory fish in inland waters.
Exceptions to consumer recommendations for specific groups, such as those who are of fertile age or are pregnant, are known only to a third of the Finns. For those of fertile age it is recommended that specific fish, i.e. salmon, large herring and pike caught in the Baltic Sea, should only be eaten 1-2 times a month (a serving size of about 100 g). In the study 37 % of the respondents were aware of this. About one fifth of the respondents were aware of the recommendation that pike should not be eaten at all when pregnant.
About half of the respondents were aware of the fact that ocean fish and farmed fish are cleaner than that of the Baltic Sea. Of the recommendations presented it was least known that the removal of the skin of the fish reduces the amount of dioxins (17 % of the respondents) and that Evira recommends that the authorities of the municipalities inform fishermen about the mercury levels in the lakes in the area (24 % of the respondents).
The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira will be continuing the co-operation with different authorities in order to make the consumption recommendations and limitations known. In co-operation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, an effort is being made to provide expectant mothers, the parents of young children with information. The municipality’s food safety authorities are responsible for making sure that the fishing industry and trade are acquainted with in house control required by legislation and the regulations related to the labelling of foodstuffs.
In the study for Evira by Taloustutkimus Oy in 2006 the knowledge of the Finns on the recommendations and information issued by the authorities on the consumption of fish were evaluated. A random sample of 1008 persons over the age of 15 was interviewed in the study. The questions concerned the general recommendations for fish consumption issued by the Finnish National Nutrition Council (Finnish nutritional recommendations) and the exceptions given in 2004 by the National Food Agency, now Evira.
Recommendations for fish consumption and the research report (in Finnish) can be found on Evira's Internet pages: http://www.evira.fi/portal/en/food/information_on_food/recommendations/dietary_advice_on_fish_consumption/
The card “Varying species of fish twice a week” can be ordered on Evira’s Internet pages: http://www.evira.fi/portal/en/evira/publications/
For additional information, please contact:
Senior Food Control Officer Anja Hallikainen, Evira tel. 050 3868 433 (research and exceptions to the recommendations on fish consumption)
Raija Kara, Secretary General, Finnish National Nutrition Council, tel. 050 4099 860 (general recommendations on fish consumption)