Salmon farm. (Photo: Stock File)
CNN reconsiders farmed salmon issue
Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 03:50 (GMT + 9)
Salmon interests last week called CNN unethical for reporting that farmed salmon contains harmful elements like “toxic PCB chemicals,” excrements and antibiotics and that only wild salmon is safe to consume. CNN has since then revisited the topic and published a second story, taking "a deeper look at the issue".
The British Columbia (BC) Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) and the US-based National Fisheries Institute (NFI) were addressing an article by CNN Health's nutrition expert Dr Melina Jampolis, who advised "limit[ing] farmed salmon consumption to once a week at most if you are unable to find fresh, wild salmon."
Jampolis said she had obtained her information from the NGO Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The second story published on CNN’s website on 14 January (Farmed or wild fish: Which is healthier?) quotes NFI Health and Medicine Senior Executive Producer Gavin Gibbons and other experts.
"It's really high time that people have a new perspective on farmed salmon from a nutrition standpoint," says Gibbons.
Salmon has plentiful omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve heart health and cholesterol levels. Accordingly, the American Heart Association (AHA) has stated that people should eat fish - especially fatty fish like salmon - twice weekly.
However, studies have also found the toxins methylmercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in some species of fish.
A 2003 report from EWG showed that salmon farmed in the US has the highest amounts of PCBs, and a study published in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that higher levels of PCBs and other toxins exist in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild Pacific salmon.
At the same time, subsequent research found that the health benefits of both farmed and wild salmon outweigh the risks of consuming the toxins, said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He co-authored a 2006 study that said the PCB levels in farmed salmon were worth the nutritional benefits.
Also, farmed salmon is not the main source of PCBs for the average person, as most of it comes from animal products such as red meat and poultry, he stated.
"It's clear that if there is any risk, the benefit is still in the range of 300 to 1,000 times greater from the fact that you're getting the omega-3s," he stated.
Citing this research, Jampolis agreed.
Farmed fish eat a diet often consisting of smaller fish such as sardines; if they eat contaminated food, the farmed fish will absorb the toxins. But Rimm said that fish-feed makers have become better self-regulators in recent years and the levels of some contaminants have decreased.
In terms of nutrition, farmed salmon contain more omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish because, while the former are fed more, wild fish burn off the fatty acids.
To lower toxin consumption, fish eaters should consider eating fish lower on the food chain, such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines, as they retain fewer toxins, said David Love, project director at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
- Fisheries groups criticise CNN
By Natalia Real