Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What’s Up Doc? Something fishy is good for you

October 15th, 2009

Q: What are the health benefits of fish oil, and how much fish do I need to eat to get them? Is tuna packed in oil better for you than tuna packed in water because of the extra fish oil?

A: As many people know, too much saturated fat in your diet (typically from fatty meats and full-fat dairy products) may raise the risk of atherosclerotic disease (clogging of the arteries), which can lead to heart disease, stroke and/or peripheral vascular disease.

On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils, have health benefits and reduce the risk of coronary artery heart disease.

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Facts About Salmon and PCBs

April 13th, 2009


past few days, newspapers in both Canada and the U.S. have been passing along the results of a study that claims that killer whales living off the coasts of Washington state and British Columbia are slowly being poisoned by PCBs carried by wild salmon stocks in the region. Though the study obviously doesn’t refer to the farmed Atlantic salmon produced by facilities in Chile and British Columbia, the folks at SOTA thought it was important to put some facts into play that activists often obscure when it comes to this issue.

Though the use of PCBs has been banned since the 1970s, they still persist in the food chain to this day, though at steadily decreasing levels. But as the chart from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sourced from the U.S. FDA shows, the level of PCBs in salmon found in supermarket seafood sections and served in restaurants is lower than you find in a staple like salted butter or other common dinnertime fare like meatloaf, chicken breast and even brown gravy. Please keep this in mind whenever you hear media reports about this issue.

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The Color of Farmed Salmon is No Dye Job

April 13th, 2009

A couple of days ago, USA Today printed a story regarding counterfeit foods. That’s essentially the practice of taking a product and labeling it as something else in the supermarket. Here’s an interesting explantion that includes a quote from our friend Gavin Gibbons at the National Fisheries Institute:

Fish is the most frequently faked food Americans buy. In the business, it’s called “species adulteration” — selling a cheaper fish such as pen-raised Atlantic salmon as wild Alaska salmon.

When Consumer Reports tested 23 supposedly wild-caught salmon fillets bought nationwide in 2005-2006, only 10 were wild salmon. The rest were farmed. In 2004, University of North Carolina scientists found 77% of fish labeled red snapper was actually something else. Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times tested fish at 17 sushi restaurants and found that fish being sold as red snapper actually was mostly tilapia.

“It’s really just fraud, plain and simple,” says Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute, an industry group.

When SOTA members (salmon producers from North and South America) ship their product, it’s labeled as farmed, and that’s the way it should stay. But the problems with the story began with the following quote. Due to some editing error at the paper, the person who said the following was not correctly identified, but a little digging and a conversation with the reporter, USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise, revealed that the person in question is Spring Randolph, a safety officer with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition:

“When you cook it, the wild salmon retains its color, and in the aquaculture salmon, the color tends to leak out,” she says. Suspicious consumers can call the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition hotline at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

Huh? We should back up here for a moment. In the wild, salmon consume this natural pigment — called a carotenoid — while feeding on krill. Salmon flesh, like trout, retains this pigment, giving it the pleasing pink flesh the fish is famous for. Besides changing the color of the flesh, this carotenoid is also a powerful antioxidant and pro-vitamin A source. The industry maintains that it also influences the growth and survival of young salmon.

In salmon aquaculture, the industry endeavors to mimic the diet that salmon would normally get in the wild, so it supplements salmon feed with a synthetic replacement. It’s called astaxanthin, and chemically, it’s identical to the pigment that salmon get in the wild. Biologically, it’s processed and absorbed by wild and farmed fish in exactly the same manner, though some species retain more color than others.

The bottom line is simple here: we’re not talking about the sort of food coloring you buy at the supermarket and use in a cake mix. The color of salmon flesh, no matter how it’s raised, can’t leak. It’s physiologically impossible.

So how did that quote get into USA Today? As I mentioned earlier, I got hold of the reporter, Elizabeth Weise, via phone on Wednesday evening. I explained the science to her and asked how Ms. Randolph had backed up her preposterous claim and if she had cited any study that might back it up. At the time, Weise said that Randolph had told her she had observed this phenomenon while cooking salmon in her own kitchen. Weise added that because Randolph was an employee of the FDA, she had no reason not to doubt her expertise.

To say the least, I was taken aback, and I pressed Weise to contact FDA again to see if they could produce any evidence to buttress Randolph’s claim. Late at home on Thursday evening, I received the following response from Weise:

FDA says that Spring Randolph was speaking from her own experience, not FDAs. So there’s no research paper she can point to to support her statement. However it doesn’t call for a correction, because we did not quote the FDA expert incorrectly, that’s exactly what she said.. I think the best way for you to make your point would be to send in a letter to the editor.

I disagreed and insisted that the paper was obligated to print a correction or a clarification. Instead of a letter to the editor, I’ll be sending talking to her editor at the paper, Sue Kelly. Stay tuned for further developments.

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Ian Roberts on Dining Around in San Francisco

April 13th, 2009

Back on January 17, our buddy Ian Roberts was in San Francisco for a seafood show, and he stopped by the studios of KGO Radio to be a guest on Dining Around with Gene Burns. Give it a listen.

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Repeating the Farmed Salmon PCB Smear … Again

April 13th, 2009

Over at US News and World Report, environmental blogger Maura Judkis is passing along a list of “10 Risky Foods,” that have been compiled by Sprig, one of those helpful environmental groups trying to create some hysteria in the wake of the recent peanut butter recall.

As it turns out, we’ve dealt with this issue before, most recently in January. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a greater risk from PCBs from salted butter, homemade brown gravy and — wait for it — roasted chicken. Mitigating the risk further is the fact that Americans consume so little seafood, setting up a situation where overall diet of Americans would be better off if they consumed more, not less, fish.

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