Fish Labeled "Organic" Not Necessarily Wild

Monday, October 22, 2012
Beware of misleading information when you're shopping for environmentally friendly fish choices.
Raw salmon steak with lemon wedges and rosemary sprig.

Do you know the true origin of the fish you purchase? You might think you do when you see phrases like, “Enjoy our ocean-free fish!” or “No wild contaminants, completely organic!” But these are actually examples of misleading information increasingly popular with wholesalers, grocery stores and restaurants wanting to hide the origin of the fish they sell.

One-third of the fish sold today are raised in tanks and cages. This “aquaculture” is one of the fastest-growing sectors of animal food production, and like inhumanely raised chickens, farmed fish harm the environment and our health.

Farm-raised salmon eat an unnatural diet of fish oil from limited species, soy beans, canola oil and red dye. This produces flabby, bright pink meat with less omega-3 fats (associated with decreasing inflammation), more omega-6 fats (associated with inflammation) and elevated levels of mercury. Wild salmon get lots of exercise and enjoy a varied diet including shrimp and krill, which gives salmon its famous pinkish color.

Like any animal kept in close quarters, disease, sewage and parasites are a major problem for the fish and its surroundings. Farm-raised fish receive large doses of antibiotics to keep them alive until adulthood, the same forms used to treat human illnesses. Waste from fish pens generates high levels of mercury, nitrogen and sea lice, all of which threaten neighboring wildlife and the whole ecosystem. Farmed fish have significantly higher levels of pollutants, including dioxins and PCB’s, which can cause reproductive failure, hormone imbalances and cancer in humans.

Farm-raised fish might be cheaper at the register but at what cost to the environment, all sea life and human health? We are at the end of this food chain, therefore the old adage “You are what you eat,” comes to mind.

— Angela Waco, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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