- Compared to red meat and chicken, children eat fairly small amounts of seafood in the U.S., according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The numbers have dropped each year since 2007, the study showed, with reasons including worry over mercury contamination from polluted water and sustainability concerns.
- The report, published in the June issue of the AAP journal Pediatrics, discusses the pros and cons of eating fish and suggests pediatricians provide guidance to parents to help them find the safest and most sustainable sources. AAP also posted recommendations about how much seafood children should eat and what types.
- While seafood provides protein — and many types contain vitamin D and calcium — some also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which the body uses to build nerve cells in the brain and eyes, the report noted. However, it added more research is needed to understand other health benefits from seafood consumption.
While negative publicity about mercury poisoning and overfishing has steered many parents away from seafood and toward other protein options for their children's diets, the AAP stated that shouldn't be the case.
Aaron Bernstein, the report's lead author and an executive committee member of AAP's Council on Environment Health, said fish "should be a welcome part of a child's diet" for those families that eat meat. "For most types of seafood, the nutritional benefits far outweigh the risks," he said in a AAP release.
Despite this report, it could still be an uphill climb for the seafood industry and other food processors whose products have been called into question for safety or other reasons. It can be tough to convince parents, kids or consumers in general to take a second look at certain products unless previous problems have been solved and new ones haven't emerged.
The fresh produce industry, for example, recently took a reputation hit following three E. coli outbreaks involving leafy greens and romaine lettuce. Romaine sales subsequently dropped 45%, and all lettuce sales fell 27%, according to Nielsen figures quoted by The Wall Street Journal. Growers lost thousands of dollars after their crops had to destroyed or left in fields, with sales down more than $71 million as of November.
Since then, producers and distributors stepped up with a voluntary labeling regime so shoppers know the source of products, and some produce handlers have introduced stringent water quality measures their growers must meet in order to continue doing business.
On the CPG side, Campbell Soup voluntarily recalled four varieties of its popular Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers last summer after the whey powder they contained was recalled for possible salmonella contamination. For downstream companies using the recalled whey powder, it was hard to minimize the damage once a voluntary recall was announced. The best they could do was investigate, explain the situation to the public, note which batches of product may be affected and offer refunds to consumers — all things Campbell did. The company's precautionary recall apparently reassured consumers since 2018 Goldfish sales were up .4% by this past November, according to Fast Company.
The challenged seafood industry might try adopting similar transparency techniques to convince consumers its products are safe. While such moves won't assure everyone, they could help to bring safer and more sustainable seafood back to children's diets and start to reverse the lengthy decline in consumption.