Farm-Raised Salmon Now Safe?

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

November 3, 2004 -- Earlier this year, a study in the journal Science reported that 14 different chemical contaminants and pesticides were higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. Since these greater levels of contaminants and pesticides may correspond to a higher risk of cancer, it was concluded that farmed salmon are not as safe to eat as wild salmon and that farmed salmon should not be consumed more often than once a month.

Update

New information on PCB levels in wild and farmed salmon have recently been reported by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) and Salmon of the Americas (SOTA). These data purportedly show farmed and wild salmon to be essentially the same with regard to PCB levels and both are "a small fraction of the FDA tolerance."

Some Details

What should we make of this new information on PCB levels? Rather than including all species of wild salmon in the analysis as was previously done, the ADEC only analyzed sockeye and Chinook salmon -- arguing that these are the fish consumers buy in stores. For their part, SOTA analyzed salmon farmed in Canada and Chile. SOTA emphasizes that, "During the time between the collection of the fish and the publication of (the earlier) study, significant changes in PCB levels had already occurred." SOTA says that improvements have already been made in the feeding practices on salmon farms and that these changes are reflected in lower PCB levels.