- Levels of cancer-causing toxins in Scottish farmed salmon
are so high that consumers are being advised not to eat more than one portion
every two months to safeguard their health.
- Some scientists were so alarmed by the findings that
they believe that young girls and women of child bearing age would be advised
not to eat Scottish salmon at all for fear of causing birth defects and
brain damage in their unborn children.
- Others argued that the health gains from eating oily
fish outweigh the disadvantages.
- The research, published in today's Science magazine,
which analysed salmon samples bought around the world, including from shops
in London and Edinburgh, concluded that salmon farmed in Scotland and the
Faroe Islands was the most contaminated in the world. Wild salmon was given
a clean bill of health and farmed salmon from Chile and North America,
while containing some pesticides and dioxins, was cleaner than that from
the North Atlantic.
- Some of the most dangerous chemicals associated with
cancer - dieldrin, lindane, dioxins and PCBs, now all banned or carefully
controlled - were found in samples of Scottish salmon.
- The size of the sample was massive, with 594 individual
whole salmon purchased and 144 fillets in cities across Europe and North
America - a total of two tonnes of fish. The study, by a group of American
universities, is the largest of its kind.
- The researchers recommended that only a half to one meal
of eight ounces of farmed salmon should be eaten a month. More than that
and the risk of cancer would be increased by at least one case in 100,000.
- In addition to analysing the fish, the researchers looked
at the pellet food they were given. The fish food, derived from wild fish
caught by trawlers, was found to contain similarly high levels of pollutants.
- The problem appears to derive from the fact that the
wild fish used to make the pellets are often captured on the bottom of
the North Atlantic where rivers wash contaminants into the sea.
- By contrast, wild salmon that eat in the open sea had
- The research enraged the Scottish salmon industry, which
said it took no account of the health benefits.
- Julie Edgar of Scottish Quality Salmon, the industry
watchdog, said: "They have come to this bizarre conclusion without
having taken any consideration of the health benefits of Omega 3 fatty
acids that are in oily fish."
- The Food Standards Agency was more cautious but said
the salmon was within the safety levels set by the World Health Organisation
and the European Union. It said that on average in the UK people ate only
one quarter of a portion of oily fish a week.
- John Krebs, the agency's chairman, said: "We advise
that the known benefits of eating one portion of oily fish [a week] outweigh
any possible risks.
- "There is good evidence that eating oily fish reduces
the risk of death from recurrent heart attacks and that there is a similar
effect in relation to first heart attacks."
- Environmental groups called for clearer labelling so
that consumers can tell whether the fish they are buying is wild or farmed,
and where it has come from.
- Mary Taylor, Friends of the Earth chemicals campaigner,
said: "This study shows yet again how the use of persistent chemicals
contaminates our environment and food sources, which can be magnified by
intensive farming practices. Consumers and retailers alike should be shocked
by these findings.
- "Better labelling and consumer information would
allow consumers to minimise the risks, but we also need to ensure that
new chemicals legislation properly protects the environment from persistent
chemicals in the long run."
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