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.
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."
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.
We still are not convinced that farmed salmon is as safe as wild salmon. SOTA is an organization of salmon-producing companies in Canada, Chile and the United States whose mission is to "improve health, awareness and dining enjoyment of consumers in North America by providing timely, complete, accurate and insightful information about salmon on behalf ot the member companies." SOTA is not exactly an objective participant in this controversy. And SOTA compares their data to the FDA standards rather than the current EPA standards which are much stricter.
We hope that the salmon farming industry will continue in its efforts to make its product safer for the consumer.
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