Friday, April 18, 2008
Fear Downer Salmon Slipping Into Food Supply
Problems familiar to United States beef manufacturing are emerging in salmon manufacturing in Chile. Like our cattle, the salmon held fin to fin in feeding pens tend to get sick and pale, and need to be fed “medicated food” containing antibiotics and pigment as well as hormones to make them grow faster. In 2005 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris criticized Chile’s fish farming, saying they needed to control the use of fungicides like green malachite, a carcinogen that was prohibited in 2002; and better regulate the colorant used to make salmon more rosy, which has been associated with retina problems in humans. It also said Chile’s use of antibiotics was “excessive.”
Industry backers pointed out that no one has proved conclusively that antibiotics like flumequine and oxolinic acid increase antibiotic resistance in people, and that there have been no reported cases of people going blind from the colorant used. Further, they noted that it was just another of those false internet rumors that growers were using cattle prods in attempts to reactivate salmon found floating on the surface in the pens. They stressed that any such efforts would certainly have been filmed by PETA and put on You Tube by now. Most importantly, they stressed that they had been vetted by the F.D.A., which tested 40 samples of the 114,320 net tons of salmon imported from Chile in 2007. None tested positive for malachite green, oxolinic acid, flumequine, Ivermectin, fluoroquinolones or drug residues.
Nonetheless, the pen muckraking New York Times published a distasteful expose of the problems March 27, stirring up Safeway to decide to stop buying from Marine Harvest, its main supplier of salmon and associated drugs, saying that the virus for infectious salmon anemia was affecting size, and thus quality and taste. There is no word yet from Costco, the other largest Marine Harvest customer. While the Bush administration generally prefers to leave such matters to the free market, the United States Food and Drug Administration sprung into action, saying it was planning an inspection trip to assess Chile’s overall controls on its farmed salmon.