Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Will seafood make you sick?

Can I feed tuna to my kids? Will I get sick from swordfish? Is it true that I'll glow after eating farmed salmon?

If there's one ocean worry that is widely shared, this is it. How healthy is seafood? The scary answer? Nobody knows.

"Don't worry, be happy" seems to be the message from most of the seafood industry. That won't fly anymore with the latest news of bans on imported Chinese seafood. And these bans are just the tip of the iceberg.

A seafood industry journalist has scathing comments for the industry in the wake of the ban. Now some government scientists are calling for a nationwide study of seafood safety. Ouch. The new consensus is that it's time for the seafood industry to wake up and get serious about quality.

Quality and sustainability are natural partners. Anyone who cares about quality already cares about sustainability, even if they don't know it yet. And then there's the mislabeling issue, paying high grouper prices and getting cheap basa grown on an Asian fish farm. Who's paying attention? Who's responsible? Who will fix this?

The seafood industry is a natural partner for ocean conservation, and we need to find the people and groups who want to work together on quality, sustainability, and reliability. Otherwise, consumers will turn off and quit eating seafood altogether, and that's not even good for fish. If we quit eating fish, who will care about ocean pollution and other ocean ills?


Unknown said...

As someone who has worked in the seafood industry (Mostly retail and some wholesale) since 1989, I think that this scandal has hurt China's reputation more than it has hurt the overall industry. The way some companies were reckless, underscores their disregard for human health or safety.

I think that most all domestically produced and harvested seafood is, for the most part, still healthier for people to eat instead of not eating seafood at all.

In your post you write, "The new consensus is that it's time for the seafood industry to wake up and get serious about quality", but your energey should be mostly directed at Chinese companies that have tarnished all of us fishmongers that try hard to maintain our integrity and give the consumer what they deserve: The best of what the oceans have to offer.

Michael Vaughn http://www.seafooduniversity.com

Anonymous said...

You hit on some good points. First, we know surprisingly little about the safety of much of our seafood. This is especially true for many kinds of imported and farmed fish.

Second, consumers have very little information available to them when they buy seafood. Many are shocked to find out that 80% of U.S. seafood is imported (20% from China alone), and that almost 50% is farm-raised.

And third, sustainability and personal health considerations go hand-in-hand. Most of the species that are fished or farmed in the most destructive ways tend to be highest in contaminants such as mercury or PCBs. Fish like bluefin tuna, shark, grouper are highly susceptible to overfishing, and also accumulate the most contaminants. Choosing eco-friendly fish is good for both you and the oceans.

Hodad said...

always better to eat seafood, than not to eat seafood
look at obese USA folks, lots of cheap
Government subsidized pork,beef and chicken, full of antibiotics, questionable feed and disease

these meats will kill you
but then again, education is most important and now days USA folks are ignorant
as far as Chinese, been there 10 times, they are nasty
and you want to get sick? eat at any Chinese CHEAP buffet or takeout
they DO NOT eat the same food they serve, it all comes from one warehouse in Brooklyn and their memories are 5000 years long,

Hannah said...

Currently, Trout Unlimited is working on a Pacific Salmon campaign, with one goal of educating Salmon consumers. By signing the Salmon Consumer's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, consumers are taking steps not only to secure safe, healthy salmon for consuming, but also that the natural environment is protected to ensure safe and healthy salmon. To learn more or sign the Bill of Rights go to

Click Here For HTML WhyWild

Mark Powell said...

Seafood safety and sustainability are tough issues that are important to many people. Sorting out responsibilities and solutions is difficult business.

Michael, I don't think the blame can go entirely on Chinese companies, look at Winding Glass link for another view, basically we should have exerted more control on what we were getting from China. "We just didn't know" ain't good enough. And it will hurt the whole industry, IMO.

Hannah,thanks for the link. I looked at TU's stuff and it seems like there's insufficient attention to hatchery fish that are called "wild" in the marketplace. I like TU's work, and hope it delves more into hatchery fish in the seafood marketplace being called "wild." Even "wild-caught" sounds like a fully wild fish to me, but it probably isn't if it comes from WA, OR or CA.