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Study Shows Farmed Salmon Have 6-7 Times More PCBs and Toxins than Wild Salmon

Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 15:14:41 -0700
From: Dave Steele <

The Vancouver Sun (Canada) June 6, 2005


Farmed B.C. salmon more tainted than wild Farmed fish have more toxins but are well below federal limits, tests show By Chad Skelton Vancouver Sun Farmed salmon in B.C. contain six times the level of cancer-causing PCBs, dioxins and furans as wild salmon, according to government tests obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency routinely tests salmon to ensure it meets federal guidelines for chemical contaminants.

The results of 19 of those tests -- 10 on B.C. wild salmon and nine on B.C. farmed salmon -- were obtained by The Sun through the Access to Information Act.

The tests show that, on average, farmed salmon contained seven times as much polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), six times as much dioxins and twice as much furans as wild salmon.

All three chemicals -- when present in large quantities -- have been linked to health problems in humans, including cancer and birth defects.

However, the total level of contaminants in farmed salmon were still well within federal limits. The levels of the chemicals in farmed salmon ranged from one to six parts per trillion, while the limit is 20 parts per trillion.

The test results also show that the salmon tested in B.C. contained a wide variety of contamination, with the most toxic farmed salmon more than 30 times as contaminated as the cleanest wild salmon.

The CFIA tests released to The Sun do not identify the origin of the samples, other than that they are all from B.C.

The tests appear to support the results of a worldwide study published last year that found farmed salmon contained much higher rates of PCBs than wild salmon.

The authors of that study recommended that consumers limit themselves to as little as a half-serving a month of farmed salmon to prevent health risks. Stephen Stephen, national manager of technical standards with the CFIA, said the agency isn't concerned about the latest test results, because they show that both farmed and wild salmon are safe.

"Our goal is to ensure the fish consumed in Canada meets these guidelines and they're acceptable for human consumption," he said. "We don't care, specifically, whether it's canned clam or fresh salmon or whatever. Is it in compliance or not? That's the important thing for us as a regulator."

Health Canada, which sets the limits for toxins in food, is reviewing its contamination guidelines for fish.

However, agency spokesman Paul Duchesne said the agency believes farmed salmon is safe.

"Based on a recent Health Canada risk assessment, consuming farmed salmon does not pose a health risk to consumers," he wrote in an e-mail.

Mary Ellen Walling, executive-director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the health benefits of salmon in reducing heart disease far outweigh any concerns about trace levels of contaminants.

"We want to see people eating more salmon, because it's a healthy food choice," she said.

And Walling noted that other foods, such as butter, contain more PCBs than farmed salmon.

Dioxins, furans and PCBs lodge in fat cells and are difficult for the body to break down -- meaning they tend to accumulate in people over time.

For that reason, some fish farm critics argue that even though farmed salmon are not "toxic" in the traditional sense, it is wise for consumers to stick to less-contaminated wild salmon.

"The data that is out there shows fairly clearly that a large percentage of the population already has in their bodies about as much of this stuff [as] you'd want to have," said Jay Ritchlin, marine campaign specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation.

Animals higher up the food chain usually contain more contaminants because they accumulate in their bodies as they feed on other animals.

Scientists have suggested that farmed salmon may be more contaminated because they are often given feed made from fish oil and fish meal. FARMED VS. WILD:

In the latest round of the salmon debate -- is wild better for you than farmed? -- Canadian researchers measured levels of three chemical contaminants: furans, dioxins and PCBs. Farmed fish have more than wild, although in terms of the federal safety limit of 20 parts per trillion levels in both are low.

Chemicals present in sampled fish, as a percentage of the safety limit

Wild: 2.5%

Farmed: 15.3%

Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency