Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment


How to Follow Advisories

What is an advisory?

Advisories - or safe eating guidelines - from OEHHA recommend how often you can safely eat certain types of fish from water bodies in California.
Most advisories are issued because of mercury in fish.
In a few places, fish are contaminated with PCBs or other chemicals.
OEHHA gives two sets of guidelines for fish:

  • Women 18–45 years and children 1–17 years
  • Men over 17 years and women over 45 years

Babies and children are most sensitive to possible health effects from mercury and PCBs.  OEHHA gives separate advice for women ages 18 – 45 and children 1 – 17 years.  Often this advice is to eat fish less frequently than the advice for men over 17 years and women over 45 years.

How contaminated are the fish?

In OEHHA’s advisories, fish are divided into three categories based on their level of contamination.

low, medium and high risk

In the Safe Eating Guidelines in OEHHA’s advisories:

Fish in the left panel are “green” and have a low level of mercury or another chemical.

Fish in the middle panel are “yellow” and have a medium chemical level.

Fish in the right panel are “red” and have a high chemical level.

Follow the written advice under each panel for the fish in it.

If you do not see a fish species listed for a water body, it does not mean you can eat it as often as you like. Rather, it is missing because the species has not been tested at that water body.

Safe Eating Guidelines are given as the recommended number of servings a week:

serving size

Eating fish provides health benefits:

Fish with a pink heart heart have high levels of omega-3s and you can eat them at least once a week.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in large quantities only in fish.
  • Eating fish with omega-3s can lower heart disease in adults and help babies’ brains to develop.

Do not combine advice:

You can choose one fish from the “1 serving per week” group to eat that week. Then do not eat other fish from that group, another group, or another water body until the next week.

If you choose fish that can be eaten 3 servings per week, you can combine fish species from that group for a total of 3 servings in that week.

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