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Alaska Bill Requires Restaurant Labeling of Salmon
(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2004)
A proposed law in Alaska would require restaurants to disclose whether the salmon they serve is farmed or wild, according to the Juneau Empire. Current regulations in Alaska, which are not yet in effect, will require labeling on fish products sold in grocery stores, showing country of origin and whether it is farmed or wild. Restaurants were specifically exempt from the measure.

"Restaurant consumers in Alaska deserve the same notice as retail consumers," said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau. Committee chairman Sen. Scott Ogan, Wasilla, said he was concerned that the measure would require restaurants to incur undue expense printing new menus, but supported the bill overall. "I always ask. I won't eat farmed fish, that's just all there is to it. I support what you're doing here," Ogan said.

The bill, SB 282, passed the Senate Resources Committee on Friday, March 5 and will go to the Senate Finance Committee next.

It is important for consumers to know the origin of the fish they consume, since the difference in toxic contamination is significant. In fact, a recent study published in the January 9th issue of Science (vol. 303, 2004) found significantly higher levels of cancer-causing and other health-related contaminants in farm raised salmon than in their wild counterparts. In most cases, as detailed in the study, consumption of more than one meal of farmed salmon per month could pose unacceptable cancer risks according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methods for calculating fish consumption advisories. The study concluded that the contamination problem is likely related to what salmon are being fed when they're on the farm. While wild salmon eat a diverse buffet from small aquatic organisms like krill to larger fish, farmed salmon are fed a concentrated and high fat mixture of ground up fish and fish oil. And since chemical contaminants a fish is exposed to during its life are stored in its fat, the higher fat "salmon chow" passes along more of these contaminants to the farmed salmon. For further details on this research, see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News, Contaminants in Farm Raised Salmon Suggest Restrictions in Consumption.

Additionally, a government analysis in the United Kingdom from 1997-2001 found farmed salmon to be the most contaminated food. Each fish contained at least 3 toxic chemicals. Salmon was the only food in which every sample, from a batch tested in 1997, contained three pesticides: DDT, dieldrin and hexachlorobenzene. See Farm Salmon Are Now Most Contaminated Food on Shelf for more information.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your state legislators and members of Congress about the need for labeling of salmon in your grocery stores and restaurants. For more information on wild salmon in Alaska, as well as other pesticide-related news in Alaska, see Alaska Community Action on Toxics.