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Yuck: Our Seafood Is Loaded With Unspeakably Gross Pollutants

Health & Wellness  (tags: abuse, AlternativeMed, diet, disease, environment, food, government, healthcare, illness, investigation, medicine, protection, research, safety, science, society, study, warning )

- 2019 days ago -
When you tuck into a delicious seafood dish, is it possible that the fish you are eating once ate human poop? Surprisingly, that might be the case.

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Kit B (276)
Friday December 7, 2012, 5:08 pm
(Photo Credit: © AJP/

This article was published in partnership with

When you tuck into a delicious seafood dish, is it possible that the fish you are eating once ate human poop? Surprisingly, that might be the case. A look at the U.S. seafood supply reveals that some of our most popular seafood treats might come to us from unsanitary and disgusting operations in other countries. And the federal government does not necessarily stop it from making its way to your dinner plate, either.

These days, 91 percent of U.S. seafood is imported, and half of that is farmed (the other half is wild-caught). Our top suppliers include China, Thailand, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Vietnam. And the production systems some of these countries use would make your stomach turn.

Michael Doyle, regents professor and director at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, described tilapia production in China, saying, “The farmers there grow the fish in ponds that are maybe one to two acres in size. That's their livelihood. And they use excessive antibiotics.” China is a leading supplier of tilapia to the U.S.

“It's not just antibiotic residues on the seafood. It's also antibiotic-resistant microbes that come with the fish or the shrimp,” he continued. “A primary source of salmonella is the raw manure that is used to feed the shrimp and fish. Many of these farmers have poultry -- maybe chickens, maybe geese, maybe ducks. The fecal waste of these animals is fed directly into these ponds, which is the source of nutrients for these fish and shrimp… Poultry can harbor salmonella... that's shed in the feces. And many of these little farms have the family outhouse just feed directly into the ponds."

If that makes you less interested in ordering the tilapia, then you surely don’t want any Vietnamese “catfish” either. U.S. aquaculture produces channel catfish, but these days, American producers compete with a flood of cheap Vietnamese fish that are marketed as catfish. Dr. Carole Engle, chair and director of aquaculture and fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, says these Vietnamese catfish are “not only a different species, it's a different genus and a different family. We call it pangasius.”

To understand pangasius farming in Vietnam, one must first know a little bit about life in the Mekong Delta. Engle explains, “What's striking when you first get there is that there's more water than there is land in the Mekong Delta region. There are these large rivers coming through the Mekong Delta… These waters are everything. A lot of the transportation is on the water, and a lot of people live on the water, on houseboats. It's also a disposal system. People live on these rivers and their restrooms are right on these boats and they are discharging right on the rivers. And all the human waste, and all of the waste from cities… it's all going into the river and the river is the source of the water.”

That water is where the fish are raised. “A lot of the fish are raised in cages directly in rivers,” says Engle, but “more and more the pangasius are raised in what the Vietnamese call ponds.” But the ponds are nothing like U.S. aquaculture ponds that are closed systems using clean water. The Vietnamese ponds are regularly flushed with polluted river water. "Upstream a factory or a houseboat might have discharged something into it, and all that human waste is flowing through these ponds because they are flushing it through a few times a day," Engle explains.

Another concern with imported farm-raised seafood is the use of drugs and pesticides that are banned in the United States. A few that show up frequently include the drugs chloramphenicol and nitrofurans, and the fungicide malachite green. Each of these is banned in the United States for a good reason. Chloramphenicol can cause aplastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells, in humans. Doctors use it as a drug of last resort to treat typhoid fever and meningitis. Nitrofurans and malachite green are potentially carcinogenic in humans.

What happens when a shipment of filthy or toxic seafood shows up in a U.S. port? Most likely, nothing. It enters the U.S. and unwitting Americans eat it. The Food and Drug Administration has an inspection program that is notoriously limited, underfunded and not at all transparent – particularly when compared to its counterparts in Japan, Canada and the EU.

In a study published last year, David Love, science director of the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, found that Japan physically inspected 12 to 21 percent of its seafood imports between 2004 and 2009. The European Union goes even further, physically inspecting either 20 percent or 50 percent of all imported seafood shipments, depending on the risk of each individual product. But the U.S. inspects less than 2 percent of seafood imports.

Since 1997, the U.S. has relied on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system (which some deride as Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray). The system essentially turns control over to industry, requiring it to identify and control for points in the production chain when food might become contaminated. When done properly, it’s an excellent system. But it’s fair to say that setting your family’s outhouse to flow into your aquaculture pond does not constitute a good HACCP system.

Most of the time, the FDA relies on inspecting documentation to verify that adequate HACCP programs are in place and that they are being followed. (Because, you know, no one would ever falsify paperwork…) For just over 1 percent of imported seafood shipments, the FDA performs sensory examinations, checking for things like color, texture and odor. These exams can easily discover whether the seafood is filthy or rotting, but might not catch residues of veterinary drugs or microscopic pathogens.

Less than 1 percent of U.S. seafood import shipments actually go to a lab for testing. Last year, a GAO report titled “FDA Needs to Improve Oversight of Imported Seafood and Better Leverage Limited Resources” chided the FDA for inadequate oversight and even failing to meet its own inspection goals. According to the report, “FDA”s sampling program is limited in scope, is not effectively implemented, and does not fully use the capabilities of FDA’s laboratories.”

For example, in 2009, the FDA tested only 0.1 percent of seafood imports for drug residues. When they do test, they only test for 16 drugs, whereas Canada tests for 40, some European countries test for 50, and Japan tests for 57. In recent years, the U.S. lagged behind other nations in starting to test for drugs. The EU began testing for chloramphenicol and nitrofuran in 2001, but the U.S. did not do so until 2002 and 2004, respectively. In 2003, the EU began testing for malachite green, but the U.S. waited until 2005 to do so.

Once the FDA rejects a shipment of seafood, “they don't destroy the product,” explains Engle. “So it can go out on the ship and come in on another port. And because there is such a small percentage being tested, then when they go to another port like that, it's equally unlikely to be caught. So that's what happens. They call it port swapping.” She concludes, “FDA is just simply not catching things, and the system is not set up to catch it.”

The U.S. catfish industry was so fed up with the FDA’s lack of oversight that it lobbied to have catfish inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture instead. The USDA requires equivalency, says Engle, meaning that imported catfish (including pangasius) are held to the same standards as domestically raised catfish. “Why should we have different standards for our US growers and... an imported product?” Engle asks.

But even though catfish oversight was transferred to the USDA in the 2008 farm bill, the change was never implemented. Engle calls it a "political battle” between states with many seafood importers and those with a domestic catfish industry. Vietnam joined in the fight too, threatening to boycott U.S. beef. “Why would they be worried about it unless they realized they couldn't meet the US safety standards right now?" Engle points out. “The battle was not about safety for US consumers or even safety for Vietnamese consumers. It's really a shame.”

Engle worries most about the veterinary drug residues and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that have evolved alongside them in foreign aquaculture operations. "It's a long-term kind of a thing -- there aren't bodies for people to look at like an immediate acute kind of disease like salmonella and so people don't worry so much about it,” she says.

Even worse, because other importing nations have stricter regulations than the U.S., “the best quality fish goes to Europe and Japan and Canada, and we get lower quality products here." Engle is outraged by this. “I find it appalling as a U.S. consumer. I just don't think we should have lower standards than other countries in the world for our food safety,” she says. “I still believe this is the greatest nation on this planet, and yet we don't act like it sometimes.”

With the FDA asleep at the wheel, what can U.S. consumers do to avoid eating imported farmed fish produced in unsafe conditions? If you are buying unprocessed seafood at a grocery store, the product will be labeled with its country of origin.

Veterinary drug violations are disproportionately from China, Vietnam and Indonesia, and they are disproportionately found in shrimp. (Shrimp is also the cause of a large percent of shipments rejected for filth and salmonella.) Farmed salmon (particularly from Chile) is another product that has been caught with banned veterinary drug residues.

However, 70 percent of seafood consumption takes place in restaurants, which are exempt from country-of-origin labeling. That means that most of the time, U.S. consumers have no idea where their seafood comes from – unless they ask their waiter and receive an answer. Processed seafood is also exempt from country of origin labeling, so you might want to skip on the pre-cooked cocktail shrimp, too.

To truly ensure you are eating safe and sustainable seafood, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which provides updated guides to buying and eating seafood. Of course, the real solution is improving federal oversight of imported seafood, and that does not seem forthcoming.

By Jill Richardson | alternet|

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of "Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It".

Bill K (3)
Friday December 7, 2012, 6:56 pm
Don't eat seafood.

JL A (281)
Friday December 7, 2012, 7:09 pm
Is any of our food any safer?

Adena Z (19)
Friday December 7, 2012, 9:45 pm

Judy C (97)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 3:12 am
At least we can look at this guide if we want to consume seafood:

"To truly ensure you are eating safe and sustainable seafood, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which provides updated guides to buying and eating seafood. Of course, the real solution is improving federal oversight of imported seafood, and that does not seem forthcoming".

Arielle S (313)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 7:49 am
Although a vegetarian, I used to eat seafood now and then - no more. It's become like most everything else that big business touches - dirty and nasty.

Gloria p (304)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 8:57 am

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 10:00 am
I eat only seafood that says wild or natural on it when and if I eat it at all. The heavy trace mineral and pollution elements coupled with acidification and the microscopic contamination in the lakes and oceans has tainted even the wild fish.

aj E (164)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 11:17 am
yuck is right.

Nigel Goodman (7)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 12:19 pm

Stop eating it ! vote with your money - if you look behind the curtain- what fish or animal product is not horribly produced ? Industrial farming is very ugly.

Kit B (276)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 12:26 pm

Exactly - your money or lack of money supports or ends these practices. Whether that means, GMO's Franken-fish corrupted sea food, toxic veggies - you have more control than most realize. Your money is the only VOTE that can stop all of this - don't buy this crap!

Mary Donnelly (47)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 2:02 pm
Thanks Kit; important post.

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 2:23 pm
Never eat sentient beings. They are not here on Earth Mother to be "food" for human beings, or disposable, or usable in any way. We must open our spiritual perceptions and again see that all is to be considered as sacred life forms. LIFE is very sacred, and is to be untouched by harmful minds.

Kit B (276)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 2:48 pm

True enough Sherri, but that is not universal and for those who do eat seafood, meat or any form of vegetable that
could be from a GMO, then I believe all should be open and aware to the potential dangers. Fruits and vegetables grown by Monsanto or Cargill etc... do expose the consumers to toxins they may be be aware labels no information.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 3:25 pm
Noted. Great article--thanks, Kit. I knew this about tilapia and tried to tell others. I hate to be insulting when offered seafood, so I just say I'm allergic or say I just don't eat it. I used to enjoy eating it from time to time, but no more. I was also wondering about fish oil. Nutritionists say we need a minimum daily consumption of this for our health. But, if it's oil taken from poisoned fish, aren't we just poisoning ourselves? How do we find this encapsulated supplement that isn't toxic?

Kit B (276)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 3:51 pm

In a very expensive prescription form, Lois. That is if you believe the pharmaceutical industry does have a way of completely removing those toxins. (Lovaza)

Susan L (6)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 7:10 pm
totally gross, glad I dont eat it anymore

Colleen L (3)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 7:32 pm
Use to eat seafood every once in a while. But after all the crap that this article stated, I probably won't any longer. Thanks Kit

pam w (139)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 7:37 pm
If we knew what a LOT of our food "eats," we might shiver!

Your vegetables "eat" steer manure! Catfish eat fish manure! So do lobsters, crabs and other bottom-dwellers.

It's the way things work.

Christine Stewart (134)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 9:35 pm
I don't mind if my veggies eat manure- ;-) ...

Susanne R (235)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 11:47 pm
So there some truth to that old insult: "Eat sh!t and die!" I'm still reeling over the report Carrie posted about fecal matter being found on tested samples of poultry in the Buffalo area! What's left? Fish and poultry make up the lion's share of the protein in my diet. I guess I'll just have to over-wash and overcook the fish and poultry eaten in the meals I prepare!

Dorothy N (63)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 12:17 am
I would like to add that it's not just foreign fish - as was done with Mad Cow Disease and many other such issues, both chronic and newly developing food safety issues in the US have also long been down-played, covered over, even laws passed preventing people from criticizing industries or products they produce, even generally, with no name brands identified.

Does anyone remember the risks Oprah Winfrey took in speaking up about the meat industry?

ANALYSIS AIR DATE: Jan. 20, 1998
Oprah Winfrey vs. The Beef People
Oprah Winfrey and representatives of the Beef industry went to trial in a case that tests the boundaries of food defamation laws passed by Texas and 12 other states recently. Winfrey made disparaging remarks about beef on her popular talk show two years ago, which cattlemen say caused a drop in the price of beef.

... Since 1990, 13 states, from Georgia to Idaho, have adopted food defamation laws. That, in effect, allowed broccoli to stay in court. Under these laws individuals can be sued for questioning the safety of any food product without verifiable scientific proof, for ridiculing radishes or picking on pears, for example, or, as TV personality Oprah Winfrey discovered, belittling beef.

OPRAH WINFREY: Today's show may cause you to diet for all the wrong reasons. We're talking about the hidden dangers in our food.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Last year in the first court test of these laws Texas cattle ranchers filed suit against Winfrey and one of her guests, a Humane Society official, for defaming beef during an April 1996 Oprah show.

Here's what was said. "Oprah Winfrey, you said Mad Cow Disease could make AIDS look like the common cold?"

Lyman: "Absolutely."

Winfrey: "That's an extreme statement, you know."

Lyman: "Absolutely." One hundred thousand cows per year in the United States are fine at night, dead in the morning. The majority of those cows are rounded up, ground up, fed back to other cows. If only one of them has Mad Cow Disease, it has the potential to infect thousands."

Winfrey: "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!"

After the broadcast, cattle prices dropped to near 10-year lows and ranchers blamed their losses on the show. Winfrey and her lawyers cite other reasons behind the drop. The talk show host has relocated her show from Chicago to Amarillo, Texas, where the trial is being held, until the jury reaches a decision. The cattlemen are claiming more than $12 million in damages. The only other Texas food defamation lawsuit is before the same court in Amarillo:

The case of Emu Vs. Honda. An emu is the smaller cousin of the ostrich, raised for feathers, skin, and most of all meat. In early 1990, the going price for a pair of emu was about $40,000. Today that same pair would sell for being 100 and 400 dollars. And some Texas emu ranchers blame the Honda Motor Company for the drop. Six ranchers are suing Honda over the car commercial that pokes fun at a guy named Joe who looks for a job in some odd places, including an emu ranch.

PERSON IN COMMERCIAL: Emu, Joe. It's the pork of the future.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The ranchers' lawyer says the commercial defames emu meat and the emu industry.

JOHN SCOTT, Emu Ranchers' Lawyer: The message that most viewers get of this commercial is that anyone associated with the emu industry is a flimflam or scam artist.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The case is expected to be heard later this year. The food libel laws currently on the books in Texas and other states were triggered by a 1989 "60 Minutes" segment, "A is for Apple." It alleged that alar, a chemical used to lengthen the time that apples ripen on trees, could cause cancer, especially in children. Washington State apple growers sued for damages, but the suit was dismissed on the grounds that the product, not the producers, were defamed. And under the law at that time food could not be defamed. In reaction, the American Feed Industry Association hired lawyers to draft a bill against the defamation of agricultural products. The bill was then dispersed among the states where some legislatures passed it. But whether the new food defamation laws are a limitation of free speech remains to be tested. Meanwhile, in 13 states if you can't say anything nice about perishable products, it's safest not to say anything at all. ...

... DAVID BEDERMAN: Well, I believe, alternately, that in this marketplace of ideas that we have in this country that good quality information will drive out bad, false information. Growers and agricultural interests in this country have wide access to the media and wide access to public information channels. And I think we ought to rely on the marketplace of ideas to have a robust public debate. The moment we have a lawsuit filed and the moment we have one of these agricultural disparagement statutes on the books, we are basically converting a question of scientific inquiry and public policy into a legal question converted into questions of burden of proof before lawyers and judges. And I think that's a lousy way to make public policy about the safety of our food supply and also a bad way to promote scientific inquiry.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Bode, are other states adopting these laws, besides the 13 that already have them?

JOHN BODE: Some other states are considering them. ...

... DAVID BEDERMAN: Indeed. But I think it really is serious. The Oprah case is a serious test, and I think John and I agree about the use and application of these laws. But I've recently learned of a case in Ohio involving a firm called Agri General, now known as the Buckhigh Egg Farms, in which an allegation was made that they were back dating the expiration date on eggs; when a carton of eggs had expired, they simply repackaged it in a carton showing a later expiration date. And they were caught doing this. And when they were caught, their response was to file under Ohio's agricultural disparagement's statute saying, well, you've implied that these eggs aren't good to eat, and that's bad for us, and we want you to pay. There's clearly a coercive element in these suits almost of a nature of a slap suit, which is strategic litigation against public participation, and these suits are clearly intended to chill speech. They're clearly intended to send a message to the public and to food safety advocates in the media, think twice, think twice about running these stories; think twice before doing these investigations, because we may hold you to account later. ...

When we started hearing predictions about an anticipated epidemic of dementia attributed to an aging population, despite it being expected to increase among younger - and even young - people, together with all of the predictions of increased rates of what were not properly identified as metabolic disorders, with symptoms including obesity, diabetes and other issues but rather attributed to 'lifestyle choices/diseases' as is typical of polluting industry 'science', those of us aware of at least some of the industrial causes knew it was yet another PR cover-up.

Now, look at how the hazards in the following are effectively downplayed, no mention of the myriad effects or anything that indicates liability for damage.

Rigs to Riches

Before Congress could evaluate the 2007 Offshore Aquaculture Bill, the U.S. Department of the Interior published a document suggesting that it intends to issue permits for offshore aquaculture operations on or near oil platforms, potentially circumventing the legislative process.
What is Offshore Aquaculture?

Offshore aquaculture is a method of intensive fish farming, which, if allowed, would occur in U.S. federal waters 3 to 200 miles from shore. In these ‚farms,” high-value fish such as cobia, halibut, and cod are grown in densely populated, sub-merged cages.

Two commercial offshore fish farms operate off the coast of Hawaii. In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce and others fund experimental fish farms off the coasts of New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Texas.

Traditionally, when oil companies with rigs in federal waters complete drilling, they must remove their platforms within one year. However, some states have ‚rigs-to-reefs” programs that allow oil companies to leave the submerged component in the ocean to serve as an ‚artificial reef.” Rigs-to-reef programs are active in Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Seeking to capitalize on potential savings, oil companies have eagerly participated in rigs-to-reefs programs. According to Chevron representative Ayana McIntosh-Lee, it can cost up to $5 million to remove platforms from federal waters.2 while, according to Granvil Treece, an aquaculture specialist at Texas Sea Grant, it costs only $800,000 to convert the platform into an ‚artificial reef.” 3

Additionally, when oil companies convert their platforms into artificial reefs, the company absolves itself of responsibility for future damage or liability.4
Oil and Fish Farms Do Not Mix

A 1996 study in the Gulf of Mexico by the U.S. Department of Interior‚ Minerals Management Service revealed that shrimp and fish caught near oil rigs in the region contained significantly higher mercury levels than those in less contaminated areas.5

However, other studies speak of the benefits of oil rigs to the surrounding environment. Murphy Oil Corp, for example, makes claims about the ‚positive impact platforms have had on the species diversity and fish populations in the Gulf.” 6
Oil Money Research

Unfortunately, much of the research that supports attaching fish farms to oil rigs has been funded by oil companies. For example, the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program, a nonprofit research organization, is funded by the oil industry.7 Additionally, CARE‚ Executive Director, George Steinbach, is a retired Chevron engineer.8 CARE ‚promotes awareness and understanding of the potential value” of leaving oil platforms in the ocean, but has yet to publish research on pollutant levels in fish living near rigs.9,10

Chevron is one of the leading contributors to Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, and has specifically funded Hubbs research on rockfish aquaculture.11 Over the past five years, Chevron has donated at least $1 million per year to the pro-gram.12,13,14,15 Chevron is also a collaborator in the Sea Grant Gulf of Mexico Offshore Aquaculture Consortium, a federally funded group that conducts research in support of OOA.16 ...

... Chemical Use: Aquaculture operations have used hormones, and they are legally allowed to use anti-fungals, pesticides, and toxic paint. All of these substances could threaten human health and the environment.
Contaminated Feed: Fish feed contains ingredients that are contaminated with pesticides, such as PCBs, and heavy metals, such as mercury.
Fish Escape: Cages can become damaged from predator attacks and severe weather, allowing farmed fish to escape. This threatens wild fish populations due to competition for resources and genetic mixing. In the late 1990s, storms destroyed an offshore aquaculture test cage that was adjacent to an energy platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pollution: Uneaten fish feed, waste, and chemicals contaminate surrounding water and the ocean floor with organic matter and heavy metals.


Although the oil industry may benefit from offshore aquaculture on and near oil and gas platforms, open ocean aquaculture poses significant environmental and consumer risks that cannot be overlooked. Therefore, the U.S. Department of the Interior should prohibit aquaculture companies from setting up farms on or near energy platforms.

... Fish's dark side — pollutants, toxins and heavy metals

Fish are very sensitive to the high number of pollutants in the water around them. As British social critic, Peter Cox says, "describing anything which comes out of this toxic environment as a 'health food' is clearly absurd." Fresh water and inshore fish are the riskiest but pollutants are even showing up in deep sea fish as well. Chemicals gather in their fat and bio-accumulate as the fish ages. When one fish eats another the chemicals are absorbed in the flesh of the predator.

The February 1992 issue of Consumers Report showed that PCBs were found in 43% of all salmon, 50% of white fish and 35% of deep sea fish like swordfish. High levels of PCBs are also found in trout, carp, catfish, bass, bluefish and mackerel. PCBs are particularly harmful to developing fetuses and infants because it can impair development. The pesticide DDT was banned in the 1970s but it is still being found in the flesh of fish. PCBs, mercury, DDT, dioxin and scrombold can't be destroyed by cooking or freezing fish.

Another health concern is the level of heavy metals in seafood. Shellfish carry toxic levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals. The World Health Organization has concluded that there is no absolutely safe level of mercury in the human body. Fish is the main source of dietary mercury in our bodies and almost all of it is in the toxic form, methylmercury. A typical can of tuna contains 15 micrograms of mercury.

Fish also contain natural toxins such as ciquatera and scrombold which, like PCBs, mercury, DDT and dioxin, can't be destroyed by cooking or freezing. Ciquatera poisoning causes nausea, vomiting, cramps, headaches and extreme fatigue. It is found in fish like red snapper, grouper, sea bass, king mackerel and barracuda.

Raw shellfish is one of the riskiest foods you can eat. One in 250 people who eat it get food poisoning. Add to this the 30 million people around the world who are infected annually with parasites from eating raw seafood and it is easy to see why seafood is the largest source of food-borne illness. Your chance of getting sick from seafood is 25 times greater than for beef and 16 times greater than for pork or poultry. The Consumers Report study found that 40% of fish begin to spoil before they leave the supermarket.

The unsanitary conditions of beef and chicken slaughterhouses are well known but what about fish? A 1992 FDA study of American seafood processing facilities found that 20% of samples showed signs of microbiological contamination, decomposition and filth. Fish are an ideal medium for staphylocci and clostirdium that is picked up during human handling. ...

Contrast with this, which makes the damage clear, and makes one (me, at any rate) realize that these industries should not only be heavily regulated/shut down, but held responsible for the damage they do.:

To top it all off, the industrial toxic metals, such as mercury and lead, which so heavily pollute even the oceans and accumulate up the food chain are referred to as 'naturally occurring'!

... European health officials have debated whether there is any human health risk from synthetic pigment added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue. In the wild, salmon absorb carotenoid from eating pink krill. On the farm, they get canthaxanthin manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche. The pharmaceutical company distributes its trademarked SalmoFan, similar to paint store swatches, so fish farmers can choose among various shades. Europeans are suspicious of canthaxanthin, which was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill. The British banned its use as a tanning agent, but it's still available in the United States. As for its use in animal feed, the European Commission scientific committee on animal nutrition issued a warning about the pigment and urged the industry to find an alternative. But in response, the British Food Standards Agency took the position that normal consumption of salmon poses no health risk. No government has banned the pigment from animal feed. Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about a pair of preliminary studies - one in British Columbia and one in Great Britain - that showed farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon.

Scientists in the U.S. are trying to determine the extent of the contamination in salmon and what levels are safe for human consumption. The culprit appears to be the salmon feed, which contains higher concentrations of fish oil - extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish - than wild salmon normally consume. Man-made contaminants, PCBs and dioxins make their way into the ocean and are absorbed by marine life. The pollutants accumulate in fat that is distilled into the concentrated fish oil, which, in turn, is a prime ingredient of the salmon feed. Farmed salmon are far fattier than their wild cousins, although they do not contain as much of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. ...

2. Whales Don't Eat Farm Salmon
Why Should We?

by Alexandra Morton

... Alarmed by the apparent impact of the farms, I sent out 9,000 pages of letters to government, scientists, media, fishers and others, trying to inspire someone to bring these farms under control, but I was ignored. In 1994 we saw our first toxic algae bloom as the waste pouring out of the farms fed a deadly organism called Heterosigma. No one dared get wet as the crimson stain spread. While Japanese research reports toxic blooms are common near fish farms, DFO said the bloom was unrelated to the exponential increase in farm sites.

While most fish farm impact is underwater, the gunfire of farmers killing seals, sea lions, otters, herons, and even porpoise worries visitors and residents alike. They are afraid of being shot. Firing high powered rifles over the water is outlawed because bullets skip unimpeded for long distances, however an exception has been made for this industry.

Who are these farmers and why are they allowed to defy Canadian laws and threaten human health? They are multinational corporations such as Weston Foods and Stolt-Nielsen, a chemical tanker corporation. The top four companies report annual sales of over $1 billion, of which salmon farming is only a small percentage. Stolt reported a loss of $12.8 million on their sea farms in 1994, but still managed a profit of over $7 million that year.

I am a reluctant witness to the crushing corporate footprint. This archipelago is dying beneath a phantom organism so large that most of its weight is supported half a planet away. In nature, life exists within ecosystems, but the big corporations have escaped this essential limit to growth. They are unaffected when one natural system collapses, as they are feeding off several simultaneously. These ecosystems form a continuous fabric of life over the earth's surface.

Massive food production techniques can have deadly consequences. Antibiotics used extensively to farm salmon, stimulate evolution of uncontrollable "super-bugs". Farm salmon are fed animal by-products from organisms they do not eat, such as chickens, even though "mad-cow disease" made clear the deadly consequences of reorganizing the food chain. Farm salmon flesh is grey and must be chemically coloured to fool us into believing we are eating a real salmon. Pesticides, hormones, vaccines, toxic net paints and other chemicals are all used to produce salmon in violation of natural laws. Additionally, it takes four pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farm fish, a doomed equation for a planet facing food shortages. ...

Sundayherald, 2002 10 20
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

3. Farm salmon is now most contaminated food on shelf

Farmed salmon is 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 bottom. Every sample of farmed salmon in the batch tested by scientists was found to contain at least three toxic chemicals. ...

... On Saturday, protesters are planning to picket supermarkets in up to 100 towns and cities across the country, urging shoppers not to buy farmed salmon. The protests will cover all the big-name supermarkets such as Tesco, Safeway, Sainsbury's, Asda and the Co-op.

The day of action is being led by Bruce Sandison, a well-known angler from Sutherland, who chairs the newly formed Salmon Farm Protest Group. Last week the group launched its website, encouraging people to join in the protest on October 26.

'I am greatly concerned by the failure of supermarkets to warn customers that some farm salmon might contain life-threatening levels of dioxins, DDT residues and other harmful substances,' Sandison said.

'A decade of deceit, obfuscation and deception on the part of successive Scottish administrations has led to this public protest. The only way to save Scotland's remaining West Highlands and Islands wild salmon and sea-trout from extinction, caused by fish farm disease and pollution, is to explain to consumers why they shouldn't buy fake fish in their supermarkets.'

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, though most of the samples came from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Safeway (see panel).

Pollutants concentrate in farmed salmon because they are fed fish pellets and oils that are themselves contaminated. The salmon-farming industry is 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.

The industry group has also furiously condemned next weekend's protest as 'yet another ill-informed attempt to damage the livelihoods of thousands of people in Scotland in order to pursue an out-dated vendetta.' It represents farmers producing 65% of Scotland's caged salmon.

In a statement, Scottish Quality Salmon claimed that every 'fact' in a leaflet produced by the Farm Salmon Protest Group was wrong. 'We are all in favour of reasoned debate and discussion, but this group has adopted such a malicious view of salmon farming with no regard for progress or achievements that it serves no useful purpose,' said SQS chief executive, Brian Simpson. ...

5. Sea cage fish farming:
an evaluation of environmental and public health aspects
(the five fundamental flaws of sea cage fish farming)

Excerpts from a paper presented by Don Staniford at the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries public hearing on ‘Aquaculture in the European Union: Present Situation and Future Prospects’, 1st October 2002: (1) (2) Obtain a full copy of the paper ...

... Not only is aquaculture’s food supply fast running out but also what fish remains is contaminated with organochlorine pesticides. In the Northern hemisphere especially, the marine environment has been polluted to such an extent that the consequences are now being seen in the biomagnification of contaminants up through our food chain. EC measures designed to tackle the problem of PCB and dioxin contamination (EC: 2000a, 2000b, 2001a, 2002a, 2002b) have been met with fierce resistance by the fish feed industry whose products have been effectively labelled ‘hazardous goods’. For example, when the EC first proposed to lower the level of dioxins in fish meal and fish oil:

"The trade reacted immediately and went about lobbying various European ministries. Fishmeal producers from Peru and Chile e-mailed and faxed their embassies, the trade in Europe called for emergency meetings in Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, Iceland and Norway. Agriculture ministers from every country were bombarded with information and requests to postpone the meeting. One senior EU official was reported to have disconnected his telephone and fax line on the Friday afternoon because of the volume of information he was receiving" (Millar: 1999)

In November 2000 the EC’s Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition stated that "fish meal and fish oil are the most heavily contaminated feed materials with products of European fish stocks more heavily contaminated than those from South Pacific stock by a factor of ca. eight" (EC: 2000a) whilst the EC’s Scientific Committee on Food stated that fish can contain ten times higher levels of dioxins than some other foodstuffs and can represent up to 63% of the average daily exposure to dioxins (EC: 2000b). In November 2001 the EC adopted new regulations on dioxins in food and feed (EC: 2001a, EC: 2002b) but failed to include PCBs "because of the scarcity of reliable data" (EC: 2000a). The Council Directive 2001/102/EC and Council Regulation (EC) 2375/2001 foresee that the maximum levels of dioxins in feed and food will be reviewed for the first time by 31 December 2004 at the latest in the light of new data on the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, in particular with a view to the inclusion of dioxin-like PCBs in the levels to be set. A further review by 31 December 2006 at the latest will aim to significantly reducing the maximum levels (EC: 2002b, 2002c).

The repercussions for sea cage fish farmers are especially significant as they are dependent upon vast quantities of fish meal and fish oil (Millar: 2001). For example, the news that fish feed and farmed salmon was contaminated with dioxins led to Nutreco’s share price falling 15% (Intrafish: 2001). The farming of fish such as salmon so high up the food chain is an extremely efficient way of concentrating contaminants. Some fish feed is so contaminated it should be disposed of as hazardous goods rather than fed to farmed fish destined for human consumption. Yet, fish feed companies have known about PCB contamination, for example, for over 20 years (Mac: 1979). The pesticides toxaphene, DDT and chlordane have all been detected in farmed salmon and fish feed (Oetjen and Karl: 1998, PRC: 2002). Nutreco and IFOMA have both been involved in an EC-sponsored research project looking at ‘Dioxin and PCB Accumulation in Farmed Fish from Feed’ which has just been completed although when the results will be made publicly available is unclear (EC: 2002d). According to the project outline: "Contaminant levels will be determined in fillets, whole fish and in the faeces in order to measure contaminant accumulation, if any, in the edible flesh and their digestibilities" (EC: 2002d). The EC is in the process of establishing a database of 1,500 samples to compare PCB and dioxin contamination between different farmed and wild species and different countries.

Recent scientific research has revealed contamination in Canadian, Norwegian, Scottish and Irish farmed salmon (MAFF: 1999, Easton et al: 2002, FSAI: 2002, Jacobs et al: 2000, Jacobs et al: 2002a, 2002b, PRC: 2002). Dioxin contamination of fishery products is now well known with DDT, chlordane and hexachlorobenzene recently detected in 97% of ‘fresh’ (i.e. farmed) salmon on sale in the UK (the only negative sample was the one wild fresh salmon sample) (Cameron: 2002c, PRC: 2002). In 1997 all 161 samples of farmed salmon tested by the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate contained PCBs (VMD: 1998). The Food Standards Agency in the UK have also detected PCB residues in Danish farmed trout and imported Chilean farmed salmon (Intrafish: 2002a). Both the Irish Food Safety Authority and the Pesticides Residues Committee in the UK have found that farmed salmon is four times more contaminated in terms of PCBs, DDT, hexachloro-benzene and chlordane than wild salmon (FSAI: 2002, PRC: 2002).

Baltic seafood is so contaminated there have been concerns over PCB contamination of fishery products (Kiviranta, 2002). Consequently, Finland and Sweden negotiated a derogation out of the EC dioxin regulations (ENDS: 2001b). The EC estimate that approximately 20% of all industrial fish (mainly sprat and herring) is by definition ‘contaminated’ and above the new limits set for dioxins and PCBs (European Parliament: 2001) but for some countries such as Italy, Greece and Denmark over 50% of their industrial fish catches have "high conflict potential" with the new dioxin regulations (i.e. more than half of their industrial fish is contaminated). For Finland and Sweden that figure rises to 100% and 90% respectively (European Parliament: 2001). Norwegian seafood products are also contaminated (Lundebye et al: 2000, ENDS: 2001a). The Institute of Marine Research in Norway explain how PCB contamination in fish meal has led them to seek substitutes further afield in the Arctic and further down the food chain in the shape of krill:

"PCB accumulates in fish, so there is more PCB higher in the food chain. That means that there is less PCB in krill, which is lower in the food chain" (Hjellestad: 2002)

Consumers, however, are increasingly concerned over higher levels of contaminants in farmed salmon (Edwards: 2002b). As well as containing more PCBs, dioxins and DDT, farmed fish contain more fat and less of the healthy Omega 3 fish oils (Vliet and Katan: 1990, Cronin et al: 1991, George and Bhopal: 1995, Paone: 2000a). According to the Food and Drug Administration in the US, farmed salmon, for example, are four times fatter than wild salmon (Paone: 2000a). And farmed sea bass and sea bream have been found to contain 17 and 7 times more fat than their wild cousins (the same survey showed farmed turbot contained three times more fat than wild turbot) (Richardson: 2001b). The notion that eating farmed salmon is universally good for public health is no more than a sales gimmick sold by supermarkets intent on boosting profits and Government agencies who have invested a great deal of money in bankrolling salmon farming at the expense of wild fisheries.

The glossy packaging does not even say the product is farmed let alone what other hidden extras it contains. Listeria in farmed salmon is becoming much more of problem in Europe (EC: 1998) with Irish, Scottish and Norwegian salmon recalled by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States (FDA: 2002). Following illegal use of ivermectin in Scotland two British supermarkets refused to sell farmed salmon from affected farms (New Scientist: 1997). The artificial colouring Canthaxanthin (E161g), due to health concerns over its links with eye defects in children, is now the subject of a EU-wide consultation with a view to a four-fold reduction in salmon and trout diets (EC: 2002a). Canthaxanthin use is so widespread that it has been detected both in salmon farm escapees (Poole et al: 2000), their offspring (Saegrov et al: 1997) and on the sabed (Girling: 2001). In the UK, Scottish Quality Salmon have been actively lobbying against any reduction whilst some supermarkets are calling for a complete ban. In the US, the law requires Canthaxanthin to be labelled on the packaging (Cherry: 2002). In the UK, France, Spain and across the European Union the new EC fish labelling regulations which came into force on 1st January 2002 (EC: 2001c) are being flouted (Blythman: 2002, Richardson: 2002a, FIS: 2002a).

Given surveys by the UK and French governments (Seafish: 2001, Browne: 2001c, Richardson: 2002c) showing the general public distrusts farmed fish products it is not altogether surprising that supermarkets are reluctant to reveal whether fish has been farmed in closed cages or caught in open ocean. More seriously, farmed salmon mis-labelled as ‘wild’ has led to an EC-sponsored project designed to detect food fraud. For example, it was revealed last year that 25% of ‘wild’ fish in France was actually farmed (Richardson: 2001a). Since September 2001 a consortium in France, Italy, the UK and Norway has been working to develop a validated method to enable official laboratories to determine exactly where fish come from, and whether or not they are wild (EC: 2001b). That consumers are still unaware they are buying farmed salmon let alone a tainted product that contains high levels of artificial colourings (and is contaminated with PCBs and dioxins) is a vital public health and public awareness issue. The World Health Organisation recently investigated ‘Food Safety Issues Associated with Products from Aquaculture’: "The study group concluded that there were considerable needs for information associated with the aquaculture sector of food production. The gaps in knowledge hinder the process of risk assessment and the application of appropriate risk management strategies with respect to food safety strategy for products from aquaculture" (WHO: 1999, p45) ...

... With the European market already flooded with cheap farmed sea bass, sea bream and salmon, a consumer boycott of farmed fish products could be the final nail in the coffin of sea cage fish farming. ...

The problem, virtually everywhere, is not restricted to foreign anything - the problem is with unregulated corporations continuing to get away with literal murder for profit, both of us and the natural world - and PRing us into demanding that industry regulate us, to prevent 'lifestyle' diseases/dysfunctions of industrial causation.


Dorothy N (63)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 12:57 am
Would also like to mention that it's a regrettably common misconception that catfish will happily and naturally live on poop, an unfortunate one that results in the misery and death of many aquarium fish.

They may try it if they're starving, possibly in the event of certain deficiencies, or pick through it looking for something edible, but catfish are predators/scavengers which eat other animals, living or dead or, in the case of aquarium fish, pellets which unfortunately tend to contain grains which they really aren't designed to live on.

These are, granted, aquarium fish, but poop is waste with (barring digestive problems) typically with the bulk of fish-suitable nutrition used the first time and, certainly in people, poop consists largely of dead bacteria, so I'd suspect a similarity to this in fish poop as well.

Dead Catfish....

Postby eugenius » Sun Nov 13, 2005 8:34 am
My catfish died yesterday... He wouldnt eat. I thought he was a cleaner and would eat poop. I noticed on day 1 that we wasnt cleaning so i tryed to feed him flakes... didnt work so i tryed granuales... didnt work so i tryed bottom feeder pellets... also didnt work. He was in a 55g tank with 2 baby oscars and a pleco. Ph was 7.8 and i dont remember the exact numbers but on the test strip both the nitrate lvls where the first color(safest) on the strip, and the water was a lil hard, like 150 i think. Any clue what i did wrong? other than slighty overstock. all my other fish are more than ok, they are happy(seem happy at least).


Postby sandtiger » Sun Nov 13, 2005 11:03 am
I agree with oscar6, let us know what what your nitrite, ammonia and nitrate levels are.

I feel it important to let you know that catfish do not eat poop, nether do the majority of other fish. In fact, if they suck it up they will normally spit it out. What kind of catfish was it?

Catfish will eat food off the ground and locate this by using their whiskers, so it may appear that they're eating it, but please, supply any pet catfish you may have with food.

Factory farm animals of all types, including ruminants, are fed things like poop, feathers, dead animals, things that they are not intended to eat, on similar un-principles as corporations tend to use in poisoning human and environmental health and underpaying workers wherever they are permitted, to increase profits and cut costs passed in in far greater proportions to society and individual victims both fiscally and in the misery and premature death of others.

Corporations are not people, my friend, they're inhuman and, left with a responsibility only to maximize profits, inhumane to an extreme seen now in the corporate culture the infamous example of a room-full of Republicans clapping the notion of people unable to afford medical care dying of curable conditions personify.

Dorothy N (63)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 1:01 am
Whoops, failed to make it clear that the quote above ended with '... What kind of catfish was it?'

The comments following were mine.

Herbert E (10)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 1:55 am
If you are suicidal, you don't have to shoot or hang yourself. Just eat seafood and you are done.

Ruth C (87)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 6:29 am
Vegan is the way to go.

paul m (93)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 6:32 am

Now you know why I don't eat shell fish....

Edgar Zuim (47)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 11:41 am
Seafood = poison.

Sheryl G (360)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 1:31 pm
I recall when eating seafood was suppose to be healthier than eating meat. Guess not :-( So what is safe anymore?

Between the toxins in our water, the chemical sprays, the gmo's, the crap that is leaking out of our bottles, pans, the injections given into the animals, is there anything that is truly safe to eat?

We are a very foolish species.

Eternal Gardener (745)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 5:41 pm
Yep... everything is connected....

Kamila A (141)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 6:00 pm
Between the Japanese nuclear disaster and the oil spill disaster, I was already avoiding seafood, but this really completes it. The only thing left is to eat veggies from local farms.

Daniel Partlow (179)
Monday December 10, 2012, 6:31 am
We swore off seafood as a protest to the overfishing and ripping all life from the seas, now I guess it is a better reason to boycott it due to health risks!! Eithe way we just don't eat it anymore.

Past Member (0)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 4:08 pm
Great article. Thanks.

MmAway M (506)
Thursday January 3, 2013, 1:33 pm
Should of known this, grilled fish last night and have been rushing to all of the restrooms I can find! Jeeze!
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