Farmed fish are (sort of) poison

What is the most popular inexpensive fish in America? It’s a nice, flaky white fish called tilapia. You can easily blacken or bake it. Even I, the “non-cook,” can deal with tilapia. However, is there something lurking in your tilapia? Sadly, most of the time, there is. It’s one of the many horrors of fish farming, and I bet you’re going to be sick just reading about it. I’ll reveal how to find out if you are eating near-poisonous fish or the rarely found healthy tilapia and other commonly-farmed fish.

When I advise all meals revolve around eating a fish-inclusive anti-inflammatory diet, I now want you to examine where your fish is coming from carefully. The problems with fish farming aren’t limited to what people think: overcrowding of the fish. If you have fish planned for dinner tonight, then read this tomorrow. Otherwise, get ready to groan.

So, you added more fish to your diet?

Many people read that fish is good for health and purposely add more to their diet. Fish can either be one of the best or worst foods for your health. It depends on it’s origin. There is a huge difference between a fish caught in the wild vs. farm-raised fish. The most common farm-raised fish are salmon, tilapia, catfish, “sea” bass and cod. Instead of eating fish to reduce inflammation and improve health, eating the fish above can be doing quite the opposite.

When you read the real facts, it is enough to make you want to “lose your lunch.” Some foreign workers have to wear masks as they work in these fish-farming places because the food is so rotten and filthy, it indeed makes them vomit. They’ve said so. Graphically. I’ll spare you that. Here is gross fact #1: Many Farmed fish are fed raw sewage daily.

An anonymous resource reveals he has seen so much filth throughout their food growing and processing that he would “never” eat any of it. His superiors have him raise this filth, put food coloring and flavorings on it, then they ship it to the USA for you to consume and feed to your families. They have no Food & Safety Inspectors either. We’re talking about foreign fish farmers mostly, but not exclusively. There is rumbling in investigative reporting circles that some of this “food” is raised in America!

Farmed Tilapia Facts

Farmed tilapia can vary considerably in quality based on where it is produced. Tilapia are typically farmed in the U.S. and Canada using tanks with closed recirculating systems (meaning the water is removed, cleaned and circulated back). However, much of the tilapia consumed by Americans is imported from Latin America and Asia (mainly Ecuador, China, and Taiwan), where the fish are usually raised in small outdoor freshwater ponds, where waste can be both dumped in and circulated (without cleaning) indefinitely.

China is the world’s largest producer of farmed tilapia, supplying approximately 40% of global production; nearly 40% of that output is exported to the U.S. primarily in the form of frozen fillets. As reported by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in Ecuador tilapia are grown at low densities alongside shrimp to reduce water pollution, resulting in less disease and chemical use. This fact makes me somewhat less suspicious of Ecuadoran fish.

problems with fish farmingHowever, in China and Taiwan, water pollution and the use of chemicals in tilapia farming is a huge concern.

Toxic Fish Farming in China

One of the issues with tilapia farmed in China is that smaller, independent farmers face economic pressures to use animal manure rather than more expensive commercial feed for farmed fish. This practice contaminates water and makes the fish more susceptible to spreading food-borne diseases.

A July 2009 report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety of food imports from China noted in that country “Fish are often raised in ponds where they feed on waste from poultry and livestock.”

At Chen Qiang’s tilapia farm in Yangjiang city in China’s Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, “Chen” feeds fish with feces from hundreds of pigs and geese. On a hot day in July, the smell of excrement is overpowering. After seeing dead fish on the surface, Chen, 45, wades barefoot into his murky pond to open a pipe that adds fresh water from a nearby canal.

That practice is dangerous for American consumers, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. (No kidding!) “The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes like salmonella,” says Doyle, who has studied food-borne diseases in China. Do you wonder what type of fish is used in a fast food fish filet? McDonald’s conveys it uses Hoki fish. It is obtained from New Zealand fisheries, but a health inspection at a Philadelphia restaurant revealed that 23% of the fish was “mystery fish”—most likely farmed and therefore, toxic. But now, back to Chen.

Exporters buy Chen’s fish to sell to U.S. companies. Do the importers know? (Oh, sure they do!) What on earth is the F.D.A. doing? (I’ve been cut off twice and ATM put on hold for 45 minutes. I’ll let you know if I get someone on the phone).

Yang Shuiquan, chairman of a government-sponsored tilapia aquaculture association in Lianjiang, says he discourages using feces as food because it contaminates water and makes fish more susceptible to diseases. However, he acknowledges a growing number of Guangdong farmers adopt that practice (feeding feces) anyway because of fierce competition.

Farm-raised tilapia causes inflammation

Tilapia is a fast-growing tropical species of fish native to Africa. Its popularity in the commercial food industry has surged in recent years due to its cheap availability and (perversely) American’s desires to find more healthy protein sources to help them lose weight and get healthier. Horribly ironic, isn’t it?

Tilapia is now the fourth most-consumed seafood in the United States, after shrimp, tuna, and salmon. Further, most of the tilapia consumed by the public is now farm-raised rather than wild-caught. A June 2013 report from the Earth Policy Institute noted that worldwide production of farmed fish currently not only exceeds the production of beef, but that consumption of farmed fish is soon expected to exceed consumption of wild-caught fish!

Farm-raised tilapia has always been a popular source for fish, not only because it’s widely available in the U.S., but it’s also very inexpensive. However, recent studies have concluded that eating farmed tilapia may worsen inflammation that can lead to heart disease, degenerative arthritis, and many other health issues.

Nutrients: The “least” of the problems with fish farming

Many of us consume fish, hoping to reap the omega-3 fatty acid benefits that come with it. The omega-3-acids that are found in farm-raised fish are less usable in our bodies compared to the omega-3’s found in wild-bred fish. Farm-raised fish also has a lower protein content. Not only that, because farm-raised fish are kept in cages, they tend to be “fatter” with a  higher concentration of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Recall these are the inflammatory omegas found more-so in meats and dairy products. Indeed, we don’t think of fish as a source of omega-6s, but it’s true!

Farmed salmon may have at least 10x the amount of cancer-causing organic pollutants

Gross fact #2 is farmed fish has cancer-causing pollutants. This stems from gross fact #1, the “feed.” Apparently, chicken feces is one of the main ingredients that go into farmed fish feed. Furthermore, the transfer of pig and duck waste to fish farms is also a widespread practice. To clarify, everything that was non-organic, non-GMO fed and excreted by the chickens, pigs, and ducks is eaten by the farmed fish.

Antibiotics and pesticides

horrors of fish farming

The crowded conditions of fish farms cause the fish to be more susceptible to disease.

To keep them alive, farm owners give antibiotics to the fish to stave off disease—just like non-free-range cattle. This is gross fact #3.

Add pesticides to the mix too. Farm-bred fish are treated with pesticides to combat sea lice. This is gross fact #4.

The pesticides used to treat farmed fish are so deadly they will kill wild salmon that are accidentally exposed to them. These pesticides are also eventually released in the ocean, where they get into the bodies and systems of other marine life. Can you imagine that worldwide governments are not stopping this practice?

Dioxin levels are 11x higher in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon

According to the Environmental Working Group, the “first-ever tests of farmed salmon from U.S. grocery stores show that farmed salmon are likely the most [dioxin-like] PCB-contaminated protein source in the U.S. food supply.” Dioxin is a very toxic chemical that can contribute to cancer and other medical problems. The above link is to the EPA website; Fish aren’t even listed as a source of dioxins. Hmm.

The problem with dioxin is once it enters our system, it can take a very long time to leave it. Unfortunately, the half-life of dioxin is about 7 to 11 years! This is why I stay on my detox sprays; we live in a world of toxins!

I checked my local grocery store, and the beautiful looking salmon fillets on display in the fresh seafood section had questionable origins. I received a “we don’t know” answer when I asked if it was wild caught. Further, they admitted to using dyes to color enhance the salmon’s appearance! I called “corporate, ” and no one knew of any farmed versus wild caught policies. This is a big grocery chain. All commercial food dyes are carcinogenic. What on earth? I am actually outraged more than a little bit; How about you? How often did you think you were getting safe fish? Now, I hope you realize it may not have been.

Postscript:

I finally got through to someone at the F.D.A, and they took my contact details. That was last week. I’ll try again, but I’m not “holding my breath.” You’re probably wondering how to ensure that your fish is safe. The only way is to find a local fish market that either catches fish locally or has a verifiable fresh fish source they import fish from; daily. Good restaurants will have verifiable sources for their fish too. Sockeye salmon cannot be farmed, so canned sockeye salmon or frozen fillets are safe. Canned sardines in water are safe too. Otherwise, source your fish and while you’re at it, source all of your food. It’s your body, it’s your health, and you are entitled to know these facts.

 

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