Color? Synthetic Colors in Farmed Salmon
feed typically contains synthetic colors, added to make farmers'
fish pinka fact known to few consumers until recent national
headlines uncovered the practice. Farmed salmon would be a very
unappealing gray, absent this artifical intervention.
secret came out only when a consumer group sued three large supermarket
chains earlier this year, to force them to tell shoppers that farmed
salmon is fed synthetic colors. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted
the plaintiff's attorney, who said, "It's unfair, it's deceptive
and it's against the law." The paper went on to quote a salmon
farmers' spokesman, who countered, "These are the same molecules
that make wild salmon pink."
salmon farmers are not being honest about this issue. Most use commercial
feeds containing a synthetic version of the natural pigment astaxanthin,
derived from petrochemicals. In contrast, wild salmon develop their
pink/red flesh naturally by feeding on prey such as krill (tiny
shrimp-like crustaceans), which in turn feed on algae rich in the
reddish pigment astaxanthin. Krill and other salmon prey also contain
other antioxidants and nutrients good for the health of salmon and
artificial astaxanthin added to salmon feed differs from the naturally
occurring astaxanthin in the diets and flesh of wild salmon in its
"optical isomeric distribution." While this obscure distinction
may sound innocuous, studies show that fish that consume synthetic
astaxanthin in their commercial fishmeal grow more slowly than fish
that consume the same amount of astaxanthin from natural feed containing
the same amount of calories per gram. This is an indication that
it does not function identically in salmons bodiesand
maybe not in peoples bodies, either.
there is concern about the safety of canthaxanthin, another carotenoid
pigment additive used in salmon feed. As Marion Burros wrote this
spring in the New York Times (May 28, 2003), "European Union
officials are reducing the permissible levels of canthaxanthin in
fish and poultry from 80 parts per million per kilogram of feedthe
levels permitted in this countryto 25 parts per million because
there is some concern that high levels may cause retinal damage.
In Canada the permissible level is 30 parts per million."
implications of artificial color
The controversy over artificial salmon color shines a light on three
significant issues: the nutritional quality, safety, and flavor
of farmed versus wild salmon. Data compiled by the USDA show that
wild salmon are nutritionally superior to farmed salmon in at least
Wild salmon are lower in unhealthful saturated fats, having only
about half as much as the typical farmed salmon.
Wild salmon have a healthier ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats.
Americans consume far too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s.
Most experts call for a ratio of 3:1, which is the ratio found
in wild salmon. Due to the grains in their diet, farmed salmon
may have up to a 10:1 ratio or worse.
nutritional quality based on total fat and ratio of omega-3 to omega-6
fats, wild salmon is undoubtedly the healthiest choice.
Two recent studies indicate that farmed salmon are less safe than
wild salmon. Both research teams found that farmed salmon had significantly
higher levels of toxic dioxins, furans, and PCBs, with PCB levels
about ten times higher in the farmed fish. The authors concluded
that regular consumption of farmed salmon could lead to toxin intakes
above the tolerable weekly intake for these chemicalsespecially
for PCBs and especially for children under five.
researchers blamed salmon feed. Farmed salmon are fed a diet far
richer in fish oils than their wild counterparts consume. This fatty
diet allows them to reach market size soonerbut it contains
a hidden danger: the herring oil typically fed to salmon is high
in fat-soluble toxins like dioxins and PCBs.
Commercial fish feed also yields salmon with inferior flavor and
texture. According to Mark Bittman, the noted seafood cookbook author,
"If I had a choice of fresh farm-raised salmon and sockeye
frozen from last year's harvest, I'd take the sockeye." At
a panel discussion on at the West Coast Seafood Show in Los Angeles,
Executive Chef Daniel Long of Bon Appetit said, 'To be perfectly
honest, it [farmed salmon] is crap. Wild salmon is much better."
And in a recent Wall Street Journal taste test, the panel scored
farmed salmon only 4.83 out of 10 for overall quality, while wild
salmon rated a 9.7.
you look beneath growers propaganda, it seems that farmed
salmon cant hide their true, unappetizing colors.
consider organic whole foods from both plant and animal kingdoms
to be a major key to superior health. We also think it's terribly
important to eat fish at least twice a week to get the essential
fatty acids. Here at our house, we only eat wild Alaskan salmon
and other wild seafoods from our friends at Vital Choice. Click
here to visit Vital Choice Seafood.
Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2002.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release
15. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp.
acid content of farmed and wild fish. Soon-Mi Shim and Charles
R. Santerre, Ph.D. (2003); Department of Foods and Nutrition;
Purdue University; 700 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059.
(revised 1/21/2003) [http://fn.cfs.purdue.edu/anglingindiana/AquaculturevsWildFish/FattyAcidsFarm.pdf]
MD, Luszniak D, Von der GE. Preliminary examination of contaminant
loadings in farmed salmon, wild salmon and commercial salmon feed.
Chemosphere. 2002 Feb;46(7):1053-74.
M, Ferrario J, Byrne C. Investigation of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins,
dibenzo-p-furans and selected coplanar biphenyls in Scottish farmed
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Chemosphere. 2002 Apr;47(2):183-91.
HD algal meal use in aquaculture diets: Enhancing nutritional
performance and pigmentation. Technical report 2102.001. [http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/00/jun00/061900/rpt0065_tab6.pdf]
A. (2000). "Taste Test: Wild vs Farmed Salmon." The
Wall Street Journal, 5 January, NW3. [http://www.sectionz.info/issue_1/Facts_Footnotes.html]
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