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Elaine Thompson  /  AP file
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TODAY contributor
updated 10/12/2007 3:26:48 PM ET 2007-10-12T19:26:48

All the latest research suggests that most healthy Americans should be eating more fish these days, since it's so packed with nutrients. We need the omega 3's and 6's for heart health, anti-aging and glowing skin, and protein for all those carb-conscious diets.

However, it's hard to know which fish have been over exposed to pollutants and contain harmful toxins. Expectant and nursing mothers and those planning pregnancies know how nerve-wracking it is trying to figure out which fish won't expose them to dangerous levels of mercury and other poisons. That's just one issue with fish and seafood — the other is whether your choice is endangering the environment by depleting or harming our oceanic populations.

The answer may be easier than you think. A texting service and Web site that you can access from your phone or handheld device has been introduced by Blue Ocean Institute, a marine conservation organization. Now as you relax in a restaurant or shop at your local market, you have access to the information you need to make informed choices.

FishPhone text-messaging service enables restaurant patrons, supermarket shoppers and chefs to make healthy, informed and sustainable choices when deciding which fish to choose. Consumers can text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question, and within seconds, FishPhone will text back with Blue Ocean's environmental assessment. (Standard text messaging rates apply.) Or you can visit Fishphone.org, a mobile phone formatted Web page where you can easily scroll through the color-coded info.

According to Blue Ocean, information is available for over 90 species and includes an alternative choice for fish with significant environmental concerns. Ranking is determined by their evaluation of species' life histories, abundance in the wild, habitat concerns and catch method or farming system. In cases where excess consumption could be potentially harmful, important health advisory information is included in the returned text message. For example, Blue Ocean indicates unsafe levels of mercury in species such as tuna and swordfish and similarly for PCBs in farmed salmon.

Having this information in the palm of our hands while we shop or visit our local restaurants is the start of something big! We consumers have many questions, especially as the USDA and FDA seem so overworked, under-funded and ineffectual when it comes to food safety issues; using our handheld devices to connect to the most up to date info in real time make us the “commanders” of our food shopping experience.

What other types of food information would you like to have access to on your cell phone? Let me know by e-mailing me via the form below.

Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.

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