• Open Access

Statement on the benefits of fish/seafood consumption compared to the risks of methylmercury in fish/seafood


  • EFSA Scientific Committee

  • Scientific Committee members: Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Qasim Chaudhry, John Griffin, Anthony Hardy, Michael John Jeger, Robert Luttik, Ambroise Martin, Simon More, Alicja Mortensen, Birgit Nørrung, Bernadette Ossendorp, Joe Perry, Josef Schlatter, Kristen Sejrsen and Vittorio Silano
  • Correspondence: scientific.committee@efsa.europa.eu
  • Acknowledgement: The Scientific Committee wishes to thank Jan Alexander, Diane Benford, Ambroise Martin and Josef Schlatter for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion, and EFSA staff: Bernard Bottex and Petra Gergelova for the support provided to this scientific opinion.
  • Adoption date: 19 December 2014
  • Published date: 22 January 2015
  • Question number: EFSA-Q-2014-00665
  • On request from: European Commission


Following a request from the European Commission to carry out a risk benefit analysis as regards the risks and benefits to human health of fish/seafood consumption related to methylmercury, the EFSA Scientific Committee used previous work performed by the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain and the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies to create scenarios based on typical fish consumption patterns of population groups at risk of exceeding the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) for methylmercury. The Scientific Committee then estimated how many servings of fish/seafood per week these population groups would need to reach the TWI for methylmercury and the dietary reference value (DRV) for n-3 (Long-Chain) Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (LCPUFA). When consuming species with a high methylmercury content, only a few numbers of servings (<1-2) can be eaten before reaching the TWI, which may be attained before the DRV. To protect against inter alia neurodevelopmental toxicity of methylmercury and achieve the benefits of fish consumption (effect of fish/seafood consumption during pregnancy on functional outcomes of children's neurodevelopment and on cardiovascular diseases in adults), which are associated with 1–4 fish servings per week, fish/seafood species with a high content of mercury in the daily diet should be limited. Because a variety of fish species are consumed across Europe, it is not possible to make general recommendations on fish consumption. The Scientific Committee therefore recommends that each country needs to consider its own pattern of fish consumption, especially the species of fish consumed, and carefully assess the risk of exceeding the TWI of methylmercury while obtaining the health benefits from consumption of fish/seafood.