Tainted Farmed Fish Are Not Safe To Eat


I have been worried about including farmed fish on our menu for some time, recently writing a post about farmed salmon. Like many issues regarding the purity of our food supply, two competing schools of thought are both concerned with the safety of farmed fish. On one hand there is the FDA and many producers who are mainly looking at whether products are “safe” in that you won’t get obviously sick or die from consuming the food. If the foods tested contain compounds that are “unapproved” in that food, or that exceed “safe” levels, those foods will be withheld or recalled. On the other hand if the level of chemicals falls below what is deemed safe by the FDA, the food is approved for sale to the consumer with no strings attached. Then there are people like me that fervently believe that we have a right to know what foreign compounds are found to be in our food, even if the FDA determines that the levels of these compounds fall within safe ranges. I like to know what is in my food so that I may make the choice of what I want to eat. This seems reasonable and straight forward to me, does it to you?

Well, yesterday the Associated Press announced the FDA blocked the import and sale of three types of Chinese fish because the fish contained drugs “unapproved” for use in farmed fish. These fish were supposedly farmed in ponds isolated from native species, so avoid some of the environmental impacts associated with the farming of salmon. However, there is no getting around the need to use a variety of drugs to raise fish in the unnatural confines of a fish farm. The obvious implication of the AP story is that if the Chinese had just used approved drugs, all would be well in the land of the guardians of our food supply. Why did the Chinese use these drugs on the fish to be exported to the U.S., knowing that the drugs were unapproved? Maybe because the Chinese fish farmers know that the FDA inspects only 5%, at best, of all imported farmed fish.

Fish can be problematic when trying to determine if it is safe to eat. I would recommend across the board that we do not eat farmed fish until there is a comprehensive procedure in place to test and monitor the purity of the fish. If fish can not be raised in farms without the use of antibiotics and anti-parasitic chemicals, then fish should not be farmed. We also need to test wild fish. Just because the fish you buy is wild caught, does not guarantee it is clean. The plight of the Striped Bass of San Francisco Bay proves that.

So what to do? If you like fish, the answer is not clear cut. Fish is not a food that will probably ever be certified organic. If farmed, it seems impossible to produce without drugs and chemicals. If wild, there is no way to be sure of everything that fish has eaten and everywhere it has lived. If you choose to consume fish, it might have to be an ongoing and evolving process to determine which fish to eat.

I no longer eat farmed fish at all. I do eat salmon, tuna, and a couple other species of wild caught fish. Unfortunately, I can’t be sure that even these fish are completely clean. After all, maybe some of the wild caught salmon have spent time swimming in the polluted waters around commercial salmon farms. I also have concerns about consuming fish that may be endangered by over-fishing. So, I do not eat Swordfish or certain species of rockfish, and I eat Albacore tuna, not the large open water tuna like Bluefin.

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Will Sig
1 Anna

Will, another point is even if FDA approves that there are low levels still if we consume constantly, it will accumulated in our bodies. Thanks for sending me link, I never knew about the drugs, or that much detail. Now I really am concerned, but since I found out about it briefly before I really cut back on the salmon. There are other fish I consume, like talapia or rainbow trout. The over all problem is that I really don’t trust anyone anymore in food industry, everyone is so greedy that no body cares anymore. Anna 🙂


2 Will

Note also that as I think I point out in the article linked above, wild salmon seem safe to eat. They are very fast maturing fish so don’t accumulate the toxins like tuna, for example. Just stay away from the farmed salmon.


3 Anna

Will yes you are correct, just need to find where I can buy it, I know there are lot of places, but kind of hard to get to those, lol. Anna 🙂 Thanks again for the always useful information.


4 howard

Love your comments,Knew Here,have you. Tried Costco,they had Smoked. Salmon, from. Alaska,We got a deal,100. Boxes best I have ever had. Thanks Howard.


5 The_African

While wild fish is much healthier than farmed fish, I think these reports are presented out of context. Omega 6 fatty acids are not bad for you, they are *essential* fatty acids. The problem is when a person has far more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids in their diet.

Farmed fish, unlike red meat (even grass fed red meat) is still much lower in saturated fat. Chemicals in red meat, regardless of fat content or whether or not the meat is grass fed, has been associated with colon cancer. Fish/invertebrate seafood is still the healthiest meat there is.


6 Will

Yes it is healthy in the form of fat type as you say. However, be careful about the source of your fish. Farmed fish are indeed a risk in my opinion.


7 Ted

Did you hear about the new “Superfish” the FDA is ready to approve? Grows like 2-3 times fast than the average, is sterile(99% anyway) and ends up being twice the size of a normal fish…..pretty scary that stuff is entering our food chain!


8 Will

I did hear a lot about it. The publicity campaign is making it out to be harmless, but it worries me a bit, that’s for sure.



my wife is now very sick do to eating a fish fry last Friday and she has allergies to antibiotics. Dose anybody out there know of any body who has run into this??


10 howard

Golden coral in newport news va.. Manger told me in front of witness ,I asked him did the seaford come from the farm,he told me know,theyare fresh from north carolina waters. We ate at the hampton Golden coral,they have fish,asked the main shef eddie,he told me. The Manger Lied to me The Fish is Farm Raised.

Who do you. Listen. To.Thanks Howard


11 howard

Adding to the Golden Coral in newport news & Hampton Va.not only. Talapia,Scrimp& Scallops,All Farm Raised.Thanks Howard.


12 stefano g.

Hello All,
who can tell me how can I tell if a fish is from a fish farm or wild?
I know Salmon can be farmed but when I buy live fish form the regular fish-market how do or how can I know if it’s farmed or wild?
Can all fish be farmed or there are some species that can’t be farmed? If so I’ll stick to those. I do believe that eating fish it’s anyway healthier than any kinds of meat.. but it’d like to avoid farmed fish as much as possible…
thanks in advance


13 Will

Hi Stefano – You are correct that buying from the fish monger, it is harder to be sure. However since so many people now ask the same question, the fish market should be able to tell you where the fish are from. Of course you are depending on their honesty. Some species are commonly farmed, others, never. So that is one way to know. But some fish can be farmed or wild and you do not want to have to eliminate a type of fish just because of that. So with fish like salmon, you must ask if the fish is not labeled. I know that our fish markets label fish like salmon as to whether it is farmed or wild.

Eventually for sustainability reasons, fish farming will need to be used even more that it is today. Hopefully the farms will clean up their act and come up with more healthy and environmentally acceptable ways of producing their product. There are always anchovies and sardines. High in good fats and never farmed. I don’t know a lot about the methods used to catch those or how ethically produced those tins of little fishes are. And I suppose even with fish low down on the food chain, there may be populations sustainability issues eventually. There are, after all, a lot of us humans on the planet.


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