Farmed Salmon Survey

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Tremendous publicity was given recently to a new study that found farmed salmon has significantly more pollutants than wild caught salmon. However, the impact of the findings is less than clear.

Salmon farmed in Europe, North America, and Chile were compared with fish caught in the wild from several North American locations. Species tested included Pacific, coho, chinook, pink, and sockeye. Hundreds of samples were analyzed, along with samples of fish feed, and assayed for fourteen organochlorine contaminants. Salmon farmed in Europe, specifically Scotland and the Faroe Islands, had the highest contaminants while wild-caught fish had the lowest. Salmon farmed near Chile and Washington state had levels as low as the wild fish. The study was published in the January 9, 2004 issue of Science.

Here's What You Need to Know

A news article accompanying the research study pointed out the results are very controversial because the amounts of pollutants found in any of the salmon are still low and well within safety standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the Environmental Protection Agency's limit is forty times lower! The latter is what the authors used to make their recommendation not to eat farmed salmon. Still, even one of the authors of the study was quoted saying that for people with heart disease, the benefit of eating any salmon outweighs the risk but he also said young girls and women who could give birth should avoid farmed salmon.

This is an excellent example of small, theoretical risks of cancer being used to trumpet supposedly bad news even though the conclusion is not justified.

David M. Klurfeld, Ph.D., is an ACSH Advisor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Wayne State University. This item is reprinted from Nutrition News Focus. For more NNF, see: