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Farmed Salmon

by Dr. Randy


According to an AP report, “the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Environmental Health have filed notice of their intent to sue 50 salmon farms, fish processors and grocery chains under a California anti-toxics law. Under Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, companies are required to notify consumers if their products contain hazardous levels of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

“State law requires private groups to first file notice of their intent to sue to give the state attorney general and other prosecutors 60 days to decide whether to join or take over the lawsuit.

“Defendants named include major U.S. grocery chains such as Safeway Inc., Kroger Co., Albertsons Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. and farmed salmon producers in Canada and Europe.”

The California attorney general already requires markets to display ads stating that ocean fish contain toxic metals. Farmed salmon is just as dangerous, but no warning signs are required. We have poisoned our oceans, and disregarded the need to avoid toxic chemicals in our diet, and we pay the price. Hormones and estrogens from pesticides and plastics cause cancer. We can avoid many toxic chemicals by choosing organic foods whenever possible. Some substances we simply cannot avoid.

Fish is dangerous to eat. Baby food contains carcinogens from rubber gaskets in lids. McDonald’s is running scared because of lawsuits related to their transfat foods. Beef products, including meat, gelatin, and other bovine products could be contaminated with indestructible prions that can cause mad cow disease and human encephalopathy. It’s about time that lawyers started pursuing suits against companies that put our lives in danger because of toxic ingredients in foods and inadequate government oversight of food manufacturers.

Another lawsuit against three grocery chains alleges that the stores are in violation of federal law because they do not inform consumers that farmed salmon is artificially colored to turn the flesh pink instead of gray. The groceries quickly agreed to label their farmed salmon and trout to indicate color has been added. The class-action lawsuits accuse the groceries of fooling customers into paying more for the farmed salmon, since ugly gray salmon fetches much lower prices in the marketplace. Salmon farms are also under fire by environmentalists who claim that escaped farmed salmon are polluting the gene pool of wild fish, and that feed, feces, and drugs pollute the waters.

Wild salmon is relatively free of organochlorines and is naturally colored pink when the salmon consume krill and shrimp.

The good news is that several companies are producing “organic” or cleaner farmed salmon. The USDA does not have guidelines or certification for organic seafood, so technically the fish cannot be certified as organic yet, even though some stores are using that term. The producers say that the fish are raised in a cleaner environment with more room to swim and fed better food than those raised with conventional farming practices. They are not fed antibiotics or hormones. And chemicals are not used to clean their nets. Some farms use a pigment to color the salmon meat, and their feed may or may not be organic.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, two firms are primarily responsible for the newer, cleaner farmed salmon. Creative Salmon Co. in British Columbia does not use organic feed, but their fish meal is screened for PCBs and other contaminants. They do use a synthetic carotenoid to color the salmon’s flesh. Martin International in Scotland uses organic fish meal and grain. No pigment is added since their fish are naturally colored by marine creatures in the feed.

Neither company uses antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, or anti-fouling substances.

SF Chronicle: Organic label muddies the waters, Carol Ness, April 28, 2004

Hites, RA, JA Foran, DO Carpenter, MC Hamilton, BA Knuth and SJ Schwager. 2004. Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.Science 303: 226-229.

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