Daily News Archive

Farm Salmon Are Now Most Contaminated Food on Shelf
(from October 23, 2002)

The Sunday Herald reports farmed salmon are the most contaminated food sold by British supermarkets, according to a new analysis by government advisors. Among 100 different worst-case examples of fruit, vegetables, meat and other foodstuffs polluted by pesticides over the past five years, salmon comes out the most contaminated. Every sample of farmed salmon in the batch tested by scientists was found to contain at least three toxic chemicals.

The revelation comes as the Scottish salmon-farming industry faces its biggest, and potentially most damaging, nationwide protest to date. Millions of salmon, fed and reared in cages at the 350 fish farms around Scotland's coastline, are sold throughout the UK. Virtually all fresh salmon sold in British supermarkets is farmed.

The new analysis of pesticide contamination was carried out by the government's Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment. The committee's 18 experts were asked to investigate the health implications of mixtures of different chemicals in food because of growing concern over possible 'cocktail effects'.

Their report, published last week, listed all the 'worst-case occurrences of pesticide residues' in all the food sampled by scientists between 1997 and 2001. Salmon was the only food in which every sample, from a batch tested in 1997, contained three pesticides: DDT, dieldrin and hexachlorobenzene.

The committee accepted that evidence was limited and that some chemical interactions may be unpredictable, but concluded that there was 'only a very small risk to human health of the 'cocktail effect' of pesticides'. But this has been attacked as complacent by environmentalists.

'Farmed salmon is the worst of the worst of all foodstuffs tested for DDT, dieldrin and other cancer-causing chemicals . It is a contaminated product' said Don Staniford, the author of a major critique of the salmon farming industry.

The salmon-farming industry argued that DDT and dieldrin, which have long been banned in most of the world, are pollutants present in most food. Staniford pointed out, however, that farmed salmon are much more contaminated than wild salmon.

The latest pesticide survey by government scientists lends some support to Staniford's view. Only 25 of 105 samples of imported, canned, wild salmon bought in Britain between April and December last year contained DDT. By contrast 59 out of 60 samples of fresh farmed salmon in 2001 contained the pesticide.

Staniford claimed that this is why supermarkets are reluctant to label salmon as farmed or wild. Farmed fish are 'cheap and nasty', he said. 'Since wild salmon contains far fewer toxins, consumers should 'go wild' if eating salmon.'

The 2001 survey also detected hexa chloro benzene in 23 samples of farmed salmon and chlordane in 11 samples, as well as pesticides in two samples of organic salmon. Contaminated salmon were sold at all the major supermarket chains.

Pollutants concentrate in farmed salmon because they are fed fish pellets and oils that are themselves contaminated. The salmon-farming industry is currently experimenting with alternative foods, such as plant oils and proteins. 'However, it remains the case that the benefits of eating oily fish, such as salmon, for its Omega-3 essential fatty acids, far outweigh any risk and are valuable for a range of health conditions including protecting against heart disease,' said Dr John Webster, technical adviser with Scottish Quality Salmon.

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