Farmed salmon is a disaster for both the environment and human health, and tests show that farmed salmon is approximately 5 times more toxic than any other food tested.
In animal feeding studies, mice fed farmed salmon developed obesity and diabetes - effects the researchers believe are related to toxic exposures.
In addition to the pesticides and antibiotics used in fish farming, the most important source of toxic exposure is in dry feed that contains dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and other toxic contaminants.
The concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in farmed salmon are, on average, 8 times higher compared to wild salmon.
Farmed salmon also does not have the nutritional profile of wild salmon, whose omega-6 fat content is 5.5 times higher than wild salmon, tilting the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in most people instead to swing it.
If you are aware of the benefits of animal-based omega-3 fats, and you know that salmon is a great source of this nutrient, you might be surprised to find that farmed salmon is more like junk food than other healthy foods.
This stark truth has been revealed by Nicolas Daniel's documentary “Fillet-Oh-Fish”, which shows exclusive footage from fish farms and fish farms around the world.
Among the experts featured is Kurt Oddekalv, a respected Norwegian environmental activist who claims that salmon farming is a real disaster, both from an environmental and human health point of view.
Beneath salmon farms scattered throughout Norway's fjords is a 15-meter-deep layer of debris full of toxic bacteria, drugs and pesticides, and since the farms are located in the open ocean, this contamination is not contains in no way.
Farmed salmon also pose a more direct toxic threat to your health. Fish has always been considered a health food, yet food testing reveals that today's farmed salmon is one of the most toxic foods in the world.
As the producers of the documentary pointed out, "through intensive agriculture and global pollution, the meat of the fish we consume has become a deadly chemical cocktail."1
In a comprehensive assessment of farmed salmon that was published in the January 2004 issue of the scientific journal Science,2 13 organic pollutants were persistently found. Farmed salmon also does not have the same nutritional profile as wild salmon.
Rather than being a great source of much-needed omega-3 fats, farmed salmon contains far more omega-6s than omega-3s, which can have detrimental health consequences, as most people have omega-3 deficiency and you get much more omega-6 fat than you need.
Salmon farms are not an ecological solution
More than half of the fish eaten in the United States comes from fish farms.3 Aquaculture promotes itself as a sustainable solution to overfishing, but in reality, fish farms cause more problems than they solve.
First, it takes between 1.5 and 8 kilograms of wild fish to produce just 1 kilogram of farmed salmon, so the aquaculture industry is contributing greatly to the extinction of wild fish populations rather than saving them.4
A salmon farm can contain more than 2 million salmon in a relatively small space. Like factory farms on land where animals are kept in crowded conditions, fish farms are plagued with diseases that spread rapidly among fish under stress.
According to Oddekalv, the sea louse, the disease of the pancreas5 and the infectious salmon anemia virus have spread throughout Norway, yet consumers have not been informed of these fisheries pandemics, and the sale of diseased fish continues to persist.
The industry uses a number of dangerous pesticides to ward off disease-causing pests and one of them is known to have neurotoxic effects. Workers applying the pesticide must wear protective clothing that covers the entire body, however these chemicals are dumped directly into the water.
The pesticides used have also been shown to affect the DNA of fish, leading to genetic mutations. Disturbing examples of deformed cod have been seen, and estimates suggest that about half of all farmed cod suffer from this type of deformation.
What's worse, female cod escaping from farms are known to mate with wild cod, thus spreading genetic mutations and deformities in the wild population.
The nutritional content of farmed fish is very different from that of wild salmon
Farmed salmon undergo less visible but equally disturbing mutations. The meat of farmed salmon is strangely brittle and breaks when bent - a highly abnormal characteristic. The nutritional content is also abnormal.
Wild salmon contains around 5 to 7% fat, while the farmed variety can contain between 14.5 and 34%.
The high fat content is a direct result of the high fat processed feed that is fed to farmed salmon. However, farmed salmon doesn't just contain more fat overall; the real tragedy is the radically skewed ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.6 Half a fillet of wild Atlantic salmon contains approximately 3,996 milligrams (mg) of omega-3s and 341 mg of omega-6s.7
Half a fillet of Atlantic farmed salmon contains only slightly more omega-3 - 4,961 mg - but a staggering 1,944 mg of omega-6;8 5.5 times higher content compared to wild salmon.
Although your body needs both omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the ratio between the two is important, ideally 1 to 1. The standard American diet is already heavily skewed toward omega-6 fat. Thanks to the dominance of processed foods, and with farmed salmon, that unhealthy imbalance is further magnified rather than balanced.
The Farmed and Dangerous TV show9 shows an example of a salmon nutrition facts label, and when it comes to the source of this excess omega-6 fats, the ingredients are extremely revealing.
The first 9 ingredients in Skretting's “Winter Plus 3500” Salmon Food are poultry meal, fish meal, poultry fat, fish oil, whole wheat, soybean meal, gluten-free corn meal, feather meal and rapeseed oil. A wild salmon has never been in contact with any of these ingredients and they are far from what can be an appropriate diet for the species.
Farmed salmon is 5 times more toxic than any other food tested
Farmed salmon also contain much higher levels of contaminants compared to their wild counterparts, partly due to their high fat content. Many toxins accumulate quickly in fat, which means that even when raised under similarly contaminated conditions, farmed salmon will absorb more toxins than wild fish.
Surprisingly, research reveals that the main source of toxic exposure is not actually pesticides or antibiotics that are given to farmed salmon, but rather the dry feed that is fed to them.
Some contaminants found in feed are dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorinated pesticides, as well as other drugs and chemicals. When salmon eat this food, these toxins accumulate in the fat. A study,10 which tested 700 salmon samples collected around the world, found that PCB concentrations in farmed salmon are, on average, 8 times higher than in wild salmon.
According to the study authors, "the risk analysis indicates that consumption of farmed Atlantic salmon may pose health risks that lessen the beneficial effects of fish consumption."
Another group of scientists concluded that11 "Consumption of farmed salmon at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and similar compounds with a commensurate rise in health risk estimates."
Toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin has also tested various groups of foods sold in Norway for toxins and confirmed that farmed salmon contains the most toxins of all, and by a wide margin.
In general, farmed salmon is 5 times more toxic than any other food tested. In animal feeding studies, mice fed farmed salmon developed obesity and thick layers of fat around their internal organs. In addition, they also developed diabetes.
Ruzzin notes that a theory that is gaining relevance is that rising obesity rates are related to the increasing number of toxins and pollutants we are exposed to in our environment and food. Based on his own findings, Ruzzin has stopped eating farmed salmon.
What makes fish food so toxic?
To investigate why fish feed is so toxic, the documentary visits a pelletized fish feed plant in Norway. At this site they discovered that the main ingredient is eel, which is used for its high protein and fat content, and other fatty fish from the Baltic Sea.
This is the source of the problem, as the Baltic Sea is highly polluted. Some of the fish have toxic levels of contaminants, which are then simply incorporated into the pellets.
In Sweden, fishermen must warn customers about the possible toxicity of fish from the Baltic Sea. According to government recommendations, you shouldn't eat fatty fish like herring more than 1 time a week, and if you're pregnant, Baltic fish should be avoided entirely. Greenpeace activist from Sweden Jan Isakson reveals some of the sources of all this pollution.
On the outskirts of Stockholm, a huge paper mill lies on the shore of the Baltic that generates toxic dioxins.
Likewise, 9 other industrialized countries surrounding the Baltic Sea dump their toxic waste into this closed body of water. Dioxins bind to fat, so herring, eel, and salmon end up accumulating higher amounts compared to other fish.
Therefore, in view of their unfit for human consumption, some of these fatty fish are now used primarily as fish feed. Unfortunately, in the end, these toxins end up on our table every time we eat farmed fish, especially farmed salmon.
One of the fishing industry's best kept secrets
Part of the toxicity also comes from the pellet manufacturing process. Fatty fish are cooked first, resulting in 2 separate products: protein meal and oil. While the oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, the protein powder also adds toxicity to the final product.
An "antioxidant" called ethoxyquin is added to this protein powder. According to the documentary's producer, this is one of the fish feed industry's best-kept secrets - and one of the most toxic.
Ethoxyquin was developed as a pesticide by Monsanto in the 1950s. Its use is strictly regulated in fruits, vegetables and meat, but not in fish, as it was never designed for such use.
Fish feed manufacturers never informed health authorities that they were using the chemical as a means to prevent fats from oxidizing and turning rancid, so its presence in farmed fish was never addressed.
Disturbingly, tests reveal that farmed fish can contain levels of ethoxyquin that are up to 20 times higher than the level allowed in fruits, vegetables and meats.
Furthermore, the effects of this chemical on human health have never been established. The only study done on this antioxidant and human health was a thesis by Victoria Bohne, a former researcher in Norway who made a series of disturbing discoveries, such as the fact that ethoxyquin can cross the blood-brain barrier and may have carcinogenic effects. Bohne was pressured to abandon her investigative work after trying to falsify and downplay her findings.
Others have linked the secret use of ethoxyquin in Norwegian fish farming, and the lack of scientific research on its effects, to Norway's Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who is also a major shareholder in a fish farm in Norway. salmon, and has held various high-ranking positions within the fishing industry.
Are you eating fish or fish waste?
Fish can be one of the healthiest foods you can eat, yet in the industrial age you need to be fully aware of your choices.
At less than 15 cents per kilo (2.2 pounds), the heads, tails and what little fish meat remains after filleting are a real source of profit.
Virtually nothing is wasted. The fish waste is washed and ground to create a pulp, which is then used in prepared meals and pet food. Since food manufacturers are not required to inform you that their products contain fish pulp rather than actual fish fillet, this product offers a high markup for such manufacturers.
Here's a tip: If the ingredient list of the product includes fish, without specifying that it is made from fish fillets, it generally means that they used fish waste pulp.
Fishing fraud is also common. Research has shown that 1 in 3 fish labels is false or misleading. An inexpensive fish is often mislabeled as a more expensive one. Some farmed fish are also offered for sale as if they were wild.
The tracing process is more complicated in the processed food industry due to the mixing of the ingredients and this leads to the majority of fishing fraud. In a way, it is more difficult to sell fish fillets as another species, although there are also cases.
Healthy seafood options
It is clear that fish farms are not a viable solution to overfishing. If anything, they are making things worse by destroying the marine ecosystem at a much faster rate. So what is the solution? Unfortunately, the vast majority of fish - even when caught from the wild - are often too contaminated to be consumed regularly.
Most of the world's major waterways are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals such as dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals.
For this reason, I generally no longer recommend eating fish on a regular basis. However, there are some exceptions. One of them is authentic wild Alaskan salmon; whose nutritional benefits, in my opinion, outweigh any possible contaminant.
The risk of this salmon accumulating large amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced due to its short life cycle, which is only about 3 years. In addition, the bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced because it does not feed on other already contaminated fish.
Alaskan salmon (not to be confused with Atlantic salmon) must not be farmed and is therefore always wild-caught. My favorite brand is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, which offers a suitable variety of high quality salmon products with high concentrations of omega-3 fats and low levels of contaminants.
Canned salmon labeled "Alaska salmon" is a more affordable alternative to salmon fillets. Remember that wild salmon is quite thin, so the fat marks - the white stripes you see on the meat - are on the thin side.
If a fish is pale pink in color and has large fat marks, it is likely that the salmon came from a farm. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as the salmon bearing this label almost always comes from such sites.
Another exception is smaller fish with shorter life cycles such as sardines and anchovies which are also often better alternatives when it comes to their fat content. With their low risk of contamination and higher nutritional value, they are an undoubtedly beneficial alternative. In general, the closer the fish is to the bottom of the food chain, the less contamination it will accumulate.
Just make sure it's not coming from the Baltic Sea, which is heavily polluted. Other suitable alternatives are herring and fish roe (caviar), which are high in important phospholipids that nourish the mitochondrial membranes.
By Dr. Mercola