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Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard

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For years, salmon has been touted as a health food and as a result, its consumption in the United States has surged. 52 million Americans consume salmon once per month and 23 million Americans eat salmon once weekly.

As of 2003, salmon had surpassed fish sticks as the third most commonly consumed fish product behind only shrimp and tuna fish.

The meteoric rise in consumption of this fish was made possible by the innovation of mass farming operations that raise salmon in open water caged environments or in closed tank settings. This dramatically reduced the price by significantly increasing volume.

Most people have heard that they should eat wild salmon over farm-raised salmon, but do you actually know the risks associated with eating the farm-raised variety? Let’s take a closer look.

The primary health concern stems from nasty chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals were banned in the U.S. in 1976 due to their cancer-causing potential and other negative health effects. Unfortunately, PCBs are persistent organic pollutants, which means that they take a very long time to leave our environment.  They still exist in our oceans and waterways and are detectable in the flesh and fat of wild fish.

The high levels of PCBs found in farm-raised salmon come from their food supply. The salmon are fed a high-protein diet derived from smaller feeder fish. This process concentrates the PCBs to dangerously high amounts. How high?

The FDA Fails to Protect American Consumers

According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, levels of PCBs in farm-raised salmon were 4.5 times higher than the upper limit set forth by the FDA for weekly consumption of fish. According to EPA standards, farm-raised salmon should have a warning label advising people not to eat it more than 1x per month due to the toxic levels of PCBs it contains. So why hasn’t there been a warning issued? Well, the EPA only sets standards for wild-caught salmon. It is the FDA’s job to set the standard for commercially raised fish, and their standard is 500x less protective when it comes to PCB levels. No surprise that, once again, the FDA has failed to protect Americans from harm in favor of giving big business a break.

So besides the possible cancer risk, why are PCBs so harmful?

PCBs Increase Risk of Type II Diabetes

New research based on population analysis and PCB intake from fish has been surfacing directly linking PCB exposure to type II diabetes. Studies on human and animal cells show that certain types of PCBs alter key genes and proteins that effect insulin activity and inflammation, which is a critical part of the development of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. This association is new and further research is needed to fully understand the connection, but the preliminary data is alarming. Considering that type II diabetes represents the fastest growing health threat to our country, this is a correlation worth looking into.

The bottom line: If you are going to eat salmon and cannot be absolutely sure that it is wild-caught, restrict it to one time per month. Pregnant women need to be even more careful about consuming farm-raised salmon because the effects of PCBs are more detrimental to a developing baby.

Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard
image courtesy of Farmed Salmon Boycott

Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.


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54 responses to “Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard”

  1. Brysdale says:

    Wegman’s offers organic farm raised salmon. Any information on this?

    • Bobbbbb says:

      Farmed salmon at Wegmans will in all likelihood come from Ireland.

      It is produced by a subsidiary of Marine Harvest and certified organic by naturland amongst others.

      Organic production then flown halfway around your world – Global warming or feel good production – take your pick.

  2. Charles howard says:

    Maybe he is right maybe not. He makes an accusation. Can you publish some references to the scientific evidence, please?

  3. T. Ben-Dov says:

    How can we know it’s farm-raised. The label generally states “Atlantic, Norwiegan Salmon”
    or sometimes from China “Salmon”.

    I never noticed anything written “farm-raised”.
    Can “Atlantic” salmon be farm-raised, but not labeled as such?

    • Julie says:

      Atlantic, Norwegian, etc refers to the place the salmon is caught and /or processed? There are different types of salmon just like different types of trout. Also, most salmon breed in a river and the resulting young find their way out to the oceans until they are of breeding age and somewhat miraculously return to the same river to again breed and die. So, unless it actually says farm raised, I would assume that those are not. Though you can also tell by the price. The price of wild salmon is considerably higher than that of farm raised.

      • Gordy says:

        ALL Atlantic Salmon is Farm raised.
        It has nothing to do where caught.
        There is No Wild Atlantic salmon.

        Most common Wild salmon is Chinook or King, from Pacific Northwest and alaska.
        Coho or Silver, Chum, Pink alsoWild from Alaska.

        Full disclosure I am a Marine Biologist From Northern California.

        Also the USA Certainly Does require Country of Origin.
        And there is No China Salmon.

    • Bobbbbb says:

      I am guessing you are in the US.

      The US, unlike nearly every other developed economy does not require the origin of the product to be declare. You can therefore see Norwegian salmon become product of China as a result of the value added processing location. The same salmon in the EU would be labelled Origin: Norway Product of China.

      if this is something you feel strongly about (and I can understand why you might) then you should address your govt representative to push for a change in labeling laws.

  4. Johnathan says:

    How to avoid toxins in your food. Very simple and don’t eat Starve to death. There are toxins in everything you eat. This is partly why we humans have an organs called the liver and kidney which cleans our blood and detoxifies substances. The only way to avoid most toxins in your food is to grow your food your self using no chemicals. Take back agriculture 200 years and really be safe albeit small production.

  5. phusi says:

    He is a bs doctor with a bs degree in bs, not even sure he has a PHD

    I can be called a fun physician, if only I had done a 4 year degree in fun, from the Oregon school of Funology.

    • Dr. Passero says:

      Just as a clarification, Naturopathic Physicians that graduate from appropriately accredited naturopathic medical schools are granted a doctorate in Naturopathic medicine not a PhD, just as medical doctors receive a doctorate and not a PhD. Unlike many other diploma mills that hand out doctorates and PhD’s to anyone willing to pay, accredited naturopathic medical schools are recognized by the US Department of Education and meet the same national and regional accreditation standards as medical schools.

      And yes, Oregon was a very fun place to attend school as was the University of Colorado where I received my undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology.

      • Beverly says:

        Touché Doctor! Well done. :-)

      • Corwin Nichols says:

        Then as a “Physician”, you should understand the concept of CITATIONS within credible articles (i.e. you have other scientific studies to back up what you’re saying). Since I see no citations (medical journals are full of them), I see you evidence coming from you.

        • Gonzo says:

          I’ve yet to see a single medical doctor cite their sources. Nor PhD holders doing anything that isn’t directly going for scientific publication. It would be good to see the sources, and with something medical, citing sources would be the responsible decision – but it isn’t the one anyone else in any other field makes for this sort of article.

          That isn’t to say this is credible or not credible. Since the trend is not to give sources, we can never know.

    • MJT says:

      Ha Ha shamed Phusi. What a dick you turned out to be!

  6. […] Fish May be Compromising Aquatic Ecosystem August 30, 2012 Posted by Timothy B. Wheeler As fish farming grows to feed a world hungry for protein, there’s a hitch — the seas are being scoured of the […]

  7. Laure says:

    Thank You Mr. Passero for this well sourced and informative article. We are what we eat and this is most apparent in our treatment of the ecosystem. :)

  8. Roger Row says:

    What should be of concern to all of us regarding the increase in Type II diabetics is the number of very over-weight people and the clinically obese. Of even greater concern are the large number of very overweight children in the US now, at least 1/3 of youngsters are already far to heavy. These people are the ones developing Type II diabetes.

    Obesity and over-eating are doing far more damage than even a weekly farm-raised salmon. PCB’s are still everywhere in the environment and not just concentrated in fish. Plastic milk jugs are also cause for concern.

    The growing levels of contamination of river water by upstream sewage plants which cannot remove the chemicals from birth control pills are also damaging. Wild river fish stocks are producing very few fertile males today leading to a decline in wild fish numbers.

    Sadly drinking water supplies drawn from rivers with upstream sewage works are even causing problems for us. This will lead to male development and infertility in our own populations with young males already showing signs of the effect of birth control contamination of our drinking water. Sperm counts down and smaller testicles are becoming evident.

    The water is obviously pure in terms of drinkability but there is currently no way to remove birth control chemicals passed out in the urine of women on the pill.

    • Pearson says:

      And this is relevant to?
      Please stick to the point and stop wasting time.

      • Roger Row says:

        Pearson I am sticking to the point. The point is that scare-mongering about farm raised fish is pointless and foolish. As I stated there is no danger from farm-raised fish, even if eaten on a weekly basis. This article raises concerns over nothing.

        Read my comments with a touch of common-sense and you will see that there are far more dangerous areas to be concerned about if you are worried about your health, I simply listed a few which do more damage that farm-raised fish.

        Do not make spurious comments on subjects which are outside you expertise. I note that you have a habit of making one sentence comments witness your sarcastic comment regarding big fish eating little fish. We all noticed that in the article and understand the concept hence your comment is pointless.

        The secret of comment writing is to know what you are talking about and to make intelligent statements backed up by facts. As you clearly are not trained in the area kindly refrain from getting involved and leave it to people more qualified. Or try earning a Ph.D.

      • Roger Row says:

        Also Pearson you will note that the Doctor himself states that the increase in Type II diabetes is a danger from PCB’s. Hence, given that obesity which is a growing epidemic in the US and Europe my comment pointing that out is relevant. Fat and obese people are getting diabetes at an alarming rate, certainly in far greater numbers than people who eat the occasional farm-raised salmon.

        Again my comments are relevant in all areas raised by me, you on the other hand toss out one-liners with no bearing on the topic at hand and with a clear lack of any relevance or intelligence. QED,

  9. Bobbbbb says:

    Absolutely ridiculous – Scaremongering and ill-informed.

    As the author mentions, PCBs are present in the environment. As a result even breast milk contains certain levels of PCBs – are we now saying that we should avoid breastfeeding??

    Is it the perfect food? No, but it is a damn sight better than the majority of “food” that is eaten in the western diet and is frequently recommended by nutritionists as a result.

    Just so you know – the added color is the same ingredient that is added to chicken feed to make the yolks orange/yellow. Perfect? No, but hardly life threatening when compared with a burger and fries!

  10. Pearson says:

    The thing that fascinates me most about this article is that these Salmon eat smaller “feeder fish”
    Big fish eats smaller fish? Who would have thought….

  11. Magda says:

    I developed a severe reaction to eating farmed salmon 5 years ago . My blood pressure dropped to very low levels . Dr . said it was anaphylactic shock .
    Can’t even look at salmon since then !

    • Roger Row says:

      Magda. Your experience was obviously upsetting to you, but not caused by just eating farm-raised salmon but rather by eating salmon itself. You would most likely have had the same reaction to wild salmon as from farm-raised salmon. The flesh of the fish caused it, not the fact that the fish was raised in a cage and fed a commercial diet.

  12. Alistair Ferguson says:

    “Naturopathic Physician” says it all really. No proof, 15 year old attack on a soft target. Wow, salmon eat feeder fish in the wild as well, don’t ya know. Wild salmon are an endangered species in most parts of the World.

    Like everything in life it’s a compromise, but farmed salmon have been attacked for 20+ years. Still no proof, just intentionally confused “data”. So let the consumer deside.

  13. Art MacIntyre says:

    If you read it on the internet….It’s got to be true…..Right????
    The health benifits of eating farm raised salmon far out weigh any risks.
    This joker is just tring to make a name for himself.
    He is nothing but an ambulance chaser looking for a down the road law suit.
    Even dipped non-saturated fat, rolled in high glutin flour, and covered with corn sugar…it would still be better for you than what this guy eats for a snack every day behind his desk.
    Salmon farmer and biologist.
    Art MacIntyre.

    • Greg says:

      Roger that Art! BTW, I’m a chiropractor and view naturopathy as the new generation of snake-oil salesmen….

  14. Martin Seen says:

    Why did J-Post write about this matter?
    Why not inform carefully about their frisking methods at their infamous check points . For instance; demanding christian nuns to undress entirely followed by indecent bodytouching. The same for other munks and priests living there permanently.
    Did J-post write about this recent Reuters affair?
    Proud as the jewish are of their their politicians heavily sentenced – including their former president to today’s many ministers ….
    Support from the West has all but vanished.
    Martin Seen,
    former israeli loyalist.

  15. Karen Tal says:

    So eat open sea grown redfish fed fish meal free feed. Under the label platinum red, where you can check on line the levels of all toxins and also nutritional information. Mayafish.net

  16. OldAgeNotNew says:

    <<>>

    So, wild salmon eat a diet of “smaller feeder fish” they catch themselves, whereas farmed salmon eat a diet of “smaller feeder fish” caught by humans. Hmmm, I can see the big difference. No bias here folks, just “science” – move on to the “organic” section, and please have your wallets out and ready.

  17. […] The group of participants in the study was comprised of 24,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 74, who provided data on food they ate during a week and the method by which it was prepared. Those who consumed foods containing the most selenium had only half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who consumed the least. The most striking difference was found in those who ate the most foods containing all three antioxidants – vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium. Also Read Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard […]

  18. […] Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard (liveinthenow.com) […]

  19. […] Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard (liveinthenow.com) […]

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    Call or send me an e-mail Book now Salmon are in full swing. Western New York

  21. THE GOODWIN says:

    I guess he would have a vested interest in making sure that he scares people into buying products that will enrich him… huh???

    In addition to private practice, Dr. Passero works with leading manufacturers of natural health products and as a Naturopathic Consultant. He is also currently the President of the Maryland Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is an active member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

  22. Corwin Nichols says:

    So okay…stop drinking milk, eating apples, ANY grains, etc. because they’re ALL FARM RAISED! Panic time, folks! That awful farm raised salmon lives in filtered water that is routinely tested for contaminants, is fed a
    consistent (known) diet, and is inspected before it is allowed to be sold. Wild salmon swims around in God-knows-what quality water (could have been swimming in a toxic wasted outflow from a power plant five minutes before being caught), and eats about the same quality. Sure, wild tastes stronger and is more flavorful. Look closely at this article….do you see any study citations? Nope…looks like anecdotal “evidence” without any scientific study to back it up. Think for yourselves, do yourselves a favor. I sell both wild and farmed salmon at my work, and I’m astounded how easily people are brainwashed by “facts” like this article espouses.

  23. […] Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics. They specialize in fresh, sustainably caught wild (never farm-raised) salmon and seafood and with them you can really trust what you’re […]

  24. Greg says:

    This article is all BS. Especially coming from “The Environmental Working Group.” Farm raised salmon has been found to be safe consumed in a normal diet. You would have to eat 3 meals of salmon a day for decades to develop pathological toxicity.
    The problem is with testing metric capabilities. We now have the ability to find minute compounds of anything in literally anything tested.
    The classic example is mercury toxicity release from coal power plants. The EPA baseline toxicity level is a person living within a 5 mile radius of a coal plant and breathing the air, eating local food and drinking area water every day for 70 years. Hardly likely. As is getting any substantial toxicity from farm or wild salmon….

    • Lucy Mauterer says:

      Greg, you might want to do a little more research on the subject of farm raised salmon before labeling this article “BS.” The watchdog group, Environmental Working Group is made up of scientists, medical doctors, attorneys, and caring individuals who want to make this world a safer place. They vet their work carefully. Here is another watchdog group, The Salmon Farm Protest Group, who are trying to make sure farms do not use dangerous chemicals. Their site has much that might be useful to you: http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/problems.shtml.

  25. Yi Chen says:

    FDA has established tolelances for PCB’s in food, feed and food-packaging materials, as early as 08/1973 and last updated 11/2001. Refer to 21 CFR Sec. 109.30 Tolerances for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s).

    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfCFR/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=109.30

  26. TimG says:

    More bogus information. There is plenty of responsibly raised farmed salmon that is not only safe, but healthy to consume on a regular basis. PCB levels in farmed salmon from North America regularly tests at .50 parts Per Trillion while the FDA has a limit of 2 parts Per Billion (thats 2,000,000 parts per trillion). The levels tested in North America are not even in the realm of a safety concern. The omega 3’s are heart healthy and the health benefits far outweigh this non-existent risk of PCB’s
    Wild salmon, 80% of which are hatchery raised, are not immune from PCB’s either.

    • Don says:

      I am a commercial salmon fisherman from Alaska. The difference between wild salmon and farmed salmon is the food that they are fed, wild salmon feed on fish that are very small and have not stored large amounts of heavy metals or mercury and pcb’s. Farmed fish are fed fish meal which can come from the processing of large fish which store heavy metals, pcb’s and mercury in their fat. Eat wild live longer
      To say Alaska salmon is not sustainable just shows poor research, Alaska just had the largest return of wild salmon in history.

  27. mike says:

    First off, PCBs are found in the fatty tissue of the animal, such as the skin, organs and fatty deposits, not in the lean muscle meat that we humans eat most often. If you are not eating these parts of the salmon, the levels are probably well within the safe limit.

    …And correct me if I’m wrong, but this doesnt make sense:

    “PCBs in farm-raised salmon were 4.5 times higher than the upper limit set forth by the FDA “.

    “It is the FDA’s job to set the standard for commercially raised fish, and their standard is 500x less protective when it comes to PCB levels”.

    So are they saying the level 4.5x higher than the FDA limit or 500x lower?? This seems to be contradictory.

  28. Gordy says:

    Gordy on September 16, 2013 at 8:10 AM
    ALL Atlantic Salmon is Farm raised.
    It has nothing to do where caught.
    There is No Wild Atlantic salmon.

    Most common Wild salmon is Chinook or King, from Pacific Northwest and alaska.
    Coho or Silver, Chum, Pink alsoWild from Alaska.

    Full disclosure I am a Marine Biologist From Northern California.

    Also the USA Certainly Does require Country of Origin.
    And there is No China Salmon.

  29. Gary says:

    Amazing how an article written by someone who is not an expert at this will convince people to blindly change their eating habits and swear that Farm raised Salmon is bad. Why not put in links to the articles that are quoted so we can see the raw data and make a decision for ourselves. Stop being a lemming people.

  30. John says:

    That is the absolute biggest load of BS I’ve read lately.

    You could eat farm-raised salmon every day of the week for the rest of your lives and not succumb to cancer or diabetes as a result of doing so.

    I’ve been a physician for 23 years now and the more nonsense I read from absolute quacks, the more I just shake my head in disappointment. And incidentally, my degree is a medical doctorate, not a naturopath, herbalist, shaman, acupuncturist or any other such nonsense.

    About the only thing that will truly hurt you these days is letting these people play doctor with your health. The test in whether you should follow the advice of these charlatans is when you’re lying on a gurney in the emergency room looking up at me and deciding whether you want a board-certified emergency room physician to treat you or have me stand by while they contact your naturopath.

    The point is that if you’re not going to trust your life and health to these people in one instance, then you have to seriously question whether you would in any other setting.

    You get the same benefits or risks whether you’re consuming farm-raised salmon or the wild variety and neither one is dangerous to your health. Buy it, cook it for your families and enjoy long lives together.

  31. […] Farm-raised salmon:We’ve talked about farm-raised salmon before, so it’s no secret that we’re adamantly opposed. But this paints an even bleaker […]

  32. Anton says:

    How about providing some references to papers that CAN be trusted, unlike this article which pulls “facts’ straight from the arse of the author and then proceeds claiming it to be “facts” and “truth”?

  33. Wag The Dog says:

    How about all that whitefish and shrimp raised in ocean pens and sold in almost every grocery store in America. Restaurants too … I have no doubt! All of these “oceanside farms” are “downstream” of massive Chinese cities like Shanghai that dump raw sewage into the sea. Since the FDA and EPA and every other US agency is fully aware of this, it must be OK … right? Sure it is!

  34. Hans K says:

    It’s the old parts per million game . Just like tuna mercury ,you need to eat 2 pounds a day for 10 yrs . Mercury goes through your system in a few hours . We eat farmed salmon twice a month .Its canadian seems to have the best texture and flavor . I did 20 yrs commercial fishing in the pacific as a young man .
    These reports are driven by pork or beef farmers .