Traditionally, fish should be harvested from oceans’ Lakes and other natural water sources. These are wild, fresh and in perfect condition because after all it has been raised in the right environmental conditions.
What about farm-raised fish?
This is fish raised in man-made ponds or cages in farms. Though these fish will grow in water, they will not have the same environment they would have had in their natural habitat. The food they eat is different, to say the least.
Should you eat farm raised fish? Definitely Not!
That is if you care about good taste and excellent health. The fish species often raised in farms are catfish, cod, sea bass, tilapia, carp, and salmon. There are usually thousands of these fish in a small cage where the fish food is thrown in, and when the fish eat and poop, it goes into that very cage. As you can tell, this environment is not hygienic and may be a breeding ground for fungi and
disease-causing pests and parasites. This water needs frequent treatment with fungicides and antibiotics.
Farms rear much fish in a small piece of space. For instance, It is not surprising to find 50,000 fish on a 2-acre land. With each cage releasing sewage equivalent to that of 1,000 people, there is a lot of waste to deal with and with most farms taking it to the ocean; that is a high rate of pollution.
The truth is that farm-raised salmon do not have the characteristic color of natural salmon. It is introduced artificially using dyes such as the Red Dye 40. In the natural habitats, the color comes from a red shrimp-like creature called the krill that the salmons feed on. In fish farms, the salmons do not have krill. They have processed fish meal which makes their body (meat) gray (not reddish). But you will never find salmon that is not reddish in color!
The farmers use food colors to create the artificial coloring. Do not take our word for it, look at the packages containing farm-raised salmon and you will see ‘color added’ in the fine print. One of the most commonly added colors is the Red Dye 40.
The Red Dye 40 is a petroleum derived product that has been used in making candy, soda, toothpaste and other products including salmon among other uses. It is a food colorant that introduces reddish color to products. This is especially common in the US where the Red Dye 40 is yet to be banned. This is despite it being banned in many other countries in the world. For instance, in the UK, beetroot and other natural dyes are used instead of the Red Dye 40. Why is The Red Dye 40 not good?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has in the past reported that this dye causes hyperactive/allergic reactions in some people.
These can be life-threatening!
The dye has also been shown to cause hyperactivity in children and affect fetuses when consumed by pregnant women. Though this color is approved by the FDA, it does not mean that it is safe for consumption. It could even be banned shortly. We do hope so.
The worse news is that red dye 40 is not the only harmful product in farm fish. Extensive tests done by the Environmental Working Group in 2003 showed that the levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in farm-raised salmon are high. PCBs cause cancer and hence consuming this kind of salmon is inviting cancer to your body. From the test, 7 of 10 fish found in grocery stores are contaminated with PCBs in high amounts.
Other than cancer, PCBs also cause a fetus to have impaired brain development. It is these concerns that made the U.S ban the chemical in the 1970s, and the UN treaty list it among the dirty dozen chemicals that should be phased out globally. The PCBs in farm-raised salmons come from the fish oils and the fish meal they are fed with. Three studies have shown fish meals from 6 countries to contain PCBs (CFIA 1999, Easton 2002 and Jacobs 2002). We are made of what we eat, and so are fish.
They have PCBs in their meat. Due to the use of these fish meals, farm-raised salmons have up to 10 times more PCBs than wild ones.