Monday, January 18, 2010

Healthy Change #7: I smell something fishy. Fish truths.

There are a ton of benefits from eating fish, and lucky for me, everyone in my house likes it.  While my kids would rather have it in the form of a rectangle, they will eat it grilled, broiled, and of course, breaded.

I'm finding it harder and harder to find fish that was not only caught in the wild, but also fish that was processed in the country it was caught.  A while back, I stopped buying anything "farm-raised".  I also stopped purchasing anything coming out of Asia.  Considering about half of the fish on the market comes from a fish farm ( and more than 80 percent, about 10.7 billion pounds of the seafood Americans eat, comes from outside the United States, mostly from countries with sketchy regulations (Food and Water Watch), we're not eating as much fish as I'd like.

In a 2008 FDA inspection, 7% of the samples of farm-raised fish contained up to 3 different banned antibiotics and 2 banned fungicides.  Most violations occurred in farmed fish imported from Asia, mainly China, Vietnam, and Indonesia and South America.  In the article, 7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips, one of those foods was farm-raised salmon, "nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT."

The article on goes on to explain that another problematic trend is that U.S. companies export a good amount of wild-caught seafood to China where it is processed under more lax food safety and labor laws.  They then ship it back to the U.S.  Approximately 15 percent of U.S. wild-caught salmon and 12 percent of cod is exported to China unprocessed and then imported back from China.

What about organic farm-raised fish?  Well, there are no such standards in the U.S.   It's being marketed as organic, but without government oversight.

Here are a couple of tips:

Per the article on, switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon. 

If you do purchase farmed fish, stick to the following:
• Catfish (U.S)
• Arctic char
• Clams
• Mussels
• Oysters
• Scallops, Bay
• Striped Bass
• Sturgeon

And, avoid the following:
• Crayfish (Imported)
• Salmon
• Salmon roe
• Shrimp (Imported)
• Tilapia (China, Taiwan)
• Yellowtail (Australia and Japan)

For a guide specific to your region, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s regional guides.

So, yet another label to read at the grocery store. Maybe I'll write another post with a list of brands in each major food group that I have found to be the best.

Post Update 1/30/10: According to a press release, all salmon sold under Target-owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Read more:


dyn said...

Wow, just discovered your beautiful blog while googling a (slightly different) topic. Looks like some well thought out material. thanks :-)

Mom with a Mission said...

Thanks and welcome dyn. Hope you'll come back often!