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Infants eating fish in Japan 2010/9/14 18:15
Hello --

In the US, UK, and Switzerland, there seems to be a similar medical opinion that babies should not eat fish until the age of two (some doctors say three years old).

However, I find it hard to believe that the Japanese follow this rule.

What is the general Japanese medical opinion about when to begin feeding fish to an infant? Not shellfish or sushi, but cooked fish.

Our daughter is now seven months old and will be getting tired of fruit and vegetables and breastmilk soon. We both eat a lot of seafood and would prefer she gets her protein that way vs. through meats.

Thanks in advance to anyone with experience with this.

by Rinkaan  

... 2010/9/14 20:40
No one can give you proven scientific facts but the idea that infants and toddlers shouldn't eat fish is, in my opinion, ridiculous.

As long as you're not feeding your kids shark steaks and albacore salad every other night of the week, you have nothing to be concerned about.

I honestly believe industries in America spread information and distorted truths in order to get people consuming certain things, i.e. chicken and beef.

Fish is an important source of omega fatty acids and the calorie : protein ratio is very favorable.

I personally have many more concerns about the environments in which chickens, cows, and pigs are bred and raised versus the natural buildup of mercury in certain fish.
by kyototrans rate this post as useful

... 2010/9/14 20:47
I believe this advice is related to some fish having high levels of mercury. According to you need to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Perhaps do some research into fish with high levels of mercury.
by AusEz rate this post as useful

. 2010/9/14 23:56

First of all, if you're in Japan you can ask your local Public Health Center (hokenjo) for updated advise on precise procedures for feeding babies.

Otherwise, I can say from my experience as a mother that it's only in the recent years that people started warning about mercury contained in ordinary fish. I've also noticed by browsing through official websites a few years back that policies seem to differ between say the UK and Japan when it comes to mercury.

That said, basically you are encouraged to start feeding your baby in the order of juice and soup, mushed rice and carbonhydrates, mushed fruit and vegetables, mushed tofu, mushed white fish, and finally mushed poultry. And you are to try one food at a time to make sure the baby is not too sensitive against each food.

As for the fish, shirasu (baby sardines) are considered ideal for babies. If you're worried about mercury, generally speaking, smaller fish are supposed to contain less mercury, so I guess you can start with fish like small rainbow trout or the like. The following are typical sea bream recepies for 7-8 months olds.

and then some based on shirasu and tofu

Hope it helps.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

eat smaller fish 2010/9/15 11:18
I think the rule of thumb is that the bigger the fish the more mercury deposits build up (as it is top of food chain)
So if you are concerned but want to feed your child fish why not start with smaller sized fish. I would not trust the advice in Japan anymore than I would in the US. Lots of public health information is manipulated by industry with other motives. (18% of grade schools in Japan feed whale meat to school kids) With the history of minimata disease where the authorities and businesses were seemingly unaccountable, I would not trust in the system to protect your kids.
Scientists investigating mercury levels are also threatened with removal of funding if they find the "wrong" answer.
I dont think it is a Japan vs Foreigners issue and I am sure this kind of corruption happens everywhere not just Japan but the whole mercury issue is clearly something that is not as transparent as it should be.
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

UK and US 2010/9/15 11:26
In the UK and US the amount of processed food with high levels of salt and sugar is perhaps even more damaging to childrens health. Many school kids get obese and develop diabetes etc.
In this way I would say the Japanese diet is perhaps more healthy and less dangerous for kids. Hopefully by the time your kid reaches school age the world will wise up about child nutrition.
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

Thanks for the answers so far 2010/9/15 18:23
Hello everyone --

Thanks for the speedy replies, and even links to recipes - much appreciated.

I should have mentioned that the concerns in "the West" about fish for infants seem to be as much about allergies as they are about mercury. Doctors here (Switzerland) say that if your family has food allergies, limit fish until later - but again, I found it hard to believe that the Japanese feel the same way.

I lived in Japan some time ago, and hence the question for those that live there now!

Thanks again --

by Rinkaan rate this post as useful

Tiny bones 2010/9/15 23:33
Because you mentioned cooked fish in particular, it it very unlikely that the caution is related to allergy or mercury. You cannot avoid them by cooking. I think it is related to tiny bones which can be easily mouthed when eating fish. Adults can sense them and avoid thwalloing them. Even if they swallow fish bones, it is usually harmless. It is totally different for infants. Bones can stick to the throat or esophagus and may cause serious inflammation. Adults must sort out any bones carefully when feeding fish to infants.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

food allergy and white-meat fish 2010/9/16 14:42
Hi again.

My child was diagnosed of food allergy even before he started obtaining anything else than my breast milk. He had some tests taken at the doctor's and we found out he was (at least) strongly allergic to chicken egg white and the tests showed that he may be a bit sensitive towards apples as well. So, being a Japanese living in Japan, I did my homework and learned a lot about how people in Japan deal with food allergy.

Generally speaking, specialists believe that food that is easier to digest should be easier on the body. Hence we should start feeding infants with rice and bread before moving on to the more protein-like stuff. That is why you are encouraged to start with tofu before moving on to fish and eventually to chicken or pork.

But then, the top allergens were always 1) chicken egg white, 2) chicken egg yolk, 3) cow's milk and then 4) soy. So a lot of specialists and parents believed that if you are concerned about allergy (i.e. having allergic family members who might influence the baby's genes) you might want to avoid the top allegens until the baby is a bit older.

A lot of people also believed, although debatable, that if the baby is allergic to chicken eggs, that baby should also avoid chicken meat. Also, although debatable, some specialists encouraged parents to delay the weaning period if your baby if you are concerned about allergy. But still, 7 months was always generally considered a safe age to be weaned.

So as you can see, as far as I know, white-meat fish was never concidered by the general public in Japan as an especially strong allergen compared to chicken, pork or beef. Except that fish with (I don't know if there is a specific word for this in English) "blue skin" such as mackeral, as well as crustaceans such as prawns and crabs or shellfish such as oysters can quite often cause allergy and therefore should be avoided depending on the circumstances.

If the Europeans think that white-meat fish has a higher risk for allergy than pork or beef, that is really new to me. But I suppose it may have to do with what your genes have been carrying as well as the environment you are living in, because allergy is very often a complex thing.

Hope it helps.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

soy allergy 2010/9/17 03:36
If soy allergy is a concern, wouldn't that make it extremely difficult to live in Japan, since almost everything has shoyu in it? Are there Japanese who find themselves (or their babies) allergic to soy, and if so, how do they deal with it?
by MomotaroPeachBoy rate this post as useful

Who do you believe? 2010/9/17 14:22
Interesting, the tuna was omitted from the high mercury list. Blue fin tuna may become even more scarce & expensive due to the BP oil spill(major spawning area).
Some doctors who claimed to have studied Japanese said they have higher gastronomic problems due to eating prawn/salmon sashimi?? Well, Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the world.
A Japanese colon surgeon said we should not eat dairy products, i.e. cheese, etc. I asked about French who eat a lot of them. He didn't have an answer.
A new vet. in US said we should not give cats the fish??? Is this what the school is teaching these days?
Chicken and other land animals are fed fish meals made of discarded fish guts where the mercury is most concentrated.
Do you know if your meat supply industry uses hormones and antibiotics to grow them fast disease free? Now, we are eating hormone residues and each day bacteria is becoming more drug resistant. You should see the sausage plants/shops. You will leave there sick.
Imported or domestic vegetables/fruits/grains/nuts may have pesticide residue or washed in contaminated water.
Any food may have salmonella or E-Coli.
So now who do you believe or what is safe?
I suggest to feed a small amount but watch closely for allergy or digesting difficulty.
Tofu is good. You may want to start with canned fish which the bones, if any, are cooked soft.
by amazinga (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2010/9/17 18:58

Like a lot of food allergy, yes, if you have severe soy allergy it can make your life a bit hard in Japan. But you always find alternatives. Also, when you're born with it from the first place, you take it for granted, so it's not as difficult as you'd asume.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

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