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Do You Know Where Your Fish Comes From?

EconomyInCrisis writes:

fish, china

“The American seafood industry is being flooded with products imported from developing countries, much of which have proven to be contaminated with banned chemicals, poisons, carcinogens and high levels of antibiotics, according to a report by ABC News.

The report found that over 80 percent of the seafood sold in America today is imported, much of it from Third World nations such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines, none of which are known for their food safety standards.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you’re still eating fish and other seafood on a regular basis, you may want to reconsider, if you value your health. It’s extremely unfortunate, but the truth is that much of the seafood on the market nowadays is barely fit for human consumption due to high levels of contamination.

Chances are You’re Eating Seafood Farmed in China

According to 2008 Congressional testimony by Don Kraemer, Deputy Director of the Office of Food Safety at the FDA, more than 80 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, and over 40 percent of all seafood is produced in aqua-farms.

China is the largest exporter of seafood to the US. (They’re also the largest US supplier of canned vegetables, fruit juices, honey, and other processed foods.)

Kraemer stated that:

“In the past, FDA has encountered compliance problems with several Chinese food exports, including lead and cadmium in ceramicware used to store and ship food, and staphylococcal contamination of canned mushrooms.

While improvements have been made in these products, the safety of food and other products from China remains a concern for FDA, Congress, and American consumers.”

Since that testimony, a variety of Chinese exports have come under fire for being dangerously contaminated with one poison or another, and in some cases lethally so.

But the trend of seafood contamination in general, and why fish can no longer be recommended as a dietary staple, goes beyond contaminated fish from China and other third world countries.

Fish Everywhere is Coming Up Contaminated

The sad truth is that imported fish is not the only fish that is likely to be bad for your health. For example, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study, mercury contamination was detected in EVERY fish sampled in nearly 300 streams across the United States!

More than a quarter of these fish contained mercury at levels exceeding the EPA criterion for the protection of human health – a level that may still be too high to truly protect your health in the long run.

In addition, a previous study on fish from US lakes and reservoirs found that more than half contained excessive levels of mercury -- so much so they were deemed unsafe for children and pregnant women to eat.

But mercury is not the only dangerous contamination to contend with.

The problem with much of the imported seafood is the presence of antibiotics, fungicides, and other chemicals that have been banned in the US. In an ideal world, the FDA would reject any and all contaminated wares, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of our imported seafood.

As reported by, Alabama, which has some of the most stringent seafood safety testing, regularly rejects between 50 and 60 percent of imported seafood!

Compounding the problem is the fact that laboratories charged with testing imported foods have little incentive to actually report contamination to the authorities.

That’s right – It’s another case of protecting the client rather than the public.

According to a USA Today report:

“At least 10 percent of the time, the lab finds the shipments contaminated, says David Eisenberg, chairman of Anresco Labs.

Most of the time, the lab tells no one but the importer who's paying for the test, Eisenberg says. The Food and Drug Administration is none the wiser.

The practice has been going on for years, at Anresco and other labs that test imported food. The FDA gets the favorable test results, but failing ones aren't sent to the FDA if importers tell labs not to send them, five lab operators told USA TODAY.

This is not news to the FDA, which regulates most of the imported foods consumers eat. There is no regulation requiring labs to send all tests to the agency. The FDA proposed that in 2004 but never followed through.

Even now, with imported food safety high on Congress' priority list, nobody has proposed closing that loophole. Some lab operators say it should be because it puts the public at risk and forces labs to sacrifice full disclosure in order to retain importer clients.

"We don't lie. We have to do what we have to do to … keep our customers. We're working for the importer," Eisenberg says.

He says the FDA's failure to require labs to submit all test results forces labs to protect importers more than the public.”

When viewed as a whole, this should give you an idea of the potential scale of this problem…

The likelihood that the fish you buy in your local grocery store or restaurant is actually free of dangerous levels of contamination of one kind or another is slim indeed, and this is why I strongly recommend avoiding most fish, other than very small fish (like anchovies and sardines) or wild-caught fish from minimally polluted areas like the Arctic, Antarctic or Alaskan waters.

Farmed Fish May Be Worst of All

Farmed fish, in particular, should be avoided if you treasure your health. (It’s also one of the most unsustainable approaches to farming there is, and has a significant, detrimental impact on the environment.)

All farm-raised fish are fed a concoction of vitamins, antibiotics, and depending on the fish, synthetic pigments, to make up for the lack of natural flesh coloration due to the altered diet. Without it, the flesh of caged salmon, for example, would be an unappetizing, pale gray.

Pesticides are oftentimes also fed to the fish, and toxic copper sulfate is frequently used to keep nets free of algae.

Fish waste and uneaten feed litter the sea floor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures.

The inevitable result of these modern fish farming practices is an evil circle of disease, antibiotic use, followed by the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains. Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed fish farms.

Studies have also consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene and dieldrin, as well as mercury, to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish.

What are Your Options?

Sadly, contamination of our oceans and waterways is so great that toxic pollutants are found in ever increasing amounts in wild fish as well, and this is why I don’t advise eating any fish, whether farm-raised or wild-caught, unless you can verify its purity.

What options do you have, then, to get the health benefits of the omega-3 fats in fish, without exposing yourself to pollutants and excessive amounts of antibiotics, and contributing to the decline of the fish population and destruction of the environment?

These days I recommend you get your omega-3 fat from an alternative source like krill oil. Not only are krill (small, shrimp-like creatures) a superior source of omega-3, but they are one of the most easily renewable food resources available, making them an excellent nutritional source from an environmental perspective.

Though I know many of you enjoy fish for the flavor and the health benefits, if you can’t confirm that it’s from a clean, sustainable source, I believe the risks from eating it vastly outweigh the benefits.

+ Sources and References