Is That Salmon Safe to Eat?

Health Alert 146

Many of you eat fish because it helps prevent heart disease, but did you know there are health risks associated with eating certain types of salmon?

According to a new study published by the journal Science, farm-raised salmon contain higher cancer causing pollutants compared to salmon caught in the wild.

Today, you will learn the health risks associated with eating farmed salmon. You’ll see how to reduce your exposure to these harmful pollutants. And, I’ll show you how to tell the difference between farmed and wild salmon.

* The Worsening Problems of Farmed Salmon*

I have preferred wild fish over farmed raised for some time but just this month researchers in the Science article added more conclusive evidence. They report “Risk analysis indicates that consumption of farmed Atlantic salmon may pose health risks that detract from the beneficial effects of fish consumption.”1

Higher levels of pollutants develop when farmed salmon eat contaminated fishmeal. Ingesting these pollutants may lead to a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, and may harm developing brains in pregnant women.2

Companies raise farmed salmon in net pens off the coasts of Canada, Chile, Norway, and Scotland. They are Atlantic salmon raised in crowded conditions and injected with chemicals. Multinational corporations operate salmon farms. This fish is a product of the same food processing industry that gave us trans fatty acids and Mad Cow disease.

Before you decide to change your diet, consider wild salmon a different kind of animal. They have proven beneficial in preventing heart disease. Fisherman harvest wild salmon. Wild salmon are ocean-harvested during the summer season (May to October) and kept frozen during the off-season.

Wild salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. It reduces artery and cardiovascular disease, improves brain functioning, maintains skin and emotional balance, and contains less saturated fat than farmed salmon. 3

*How Do You Know the Difference?*

Currently, food producers are not required to label salmon as farm raised. There are ways you can find out.

• Ask for wild salmon at your grocer’s seafood counter.

• Buy Alaskan salmon. That will guarantees it is wild. Farmed salmon is Atlantic.

• Artificial colorants are often added to farmed salmon. Federal Law requires stores to tag those with a “color added” label. 4

If you do chose to eat farmed salmon, to reduce your exposure to harmful pollutants, try the following:

• Trim the fat from the fish before cooking.

• Choose baking or poaching over frying. These cooking methods allow PCB-laden fat to melt off the fish.

• Eat farmed salmon no more than once a month.5

Better yet, here are some tasty varieties of Alaskan wild salmon you might like to try: Alaskan sockeye salmon, Alaskan silver salmon and Alaskan king salmon.

Alaskan salmon contain no antibiotics, hormones, or artificial colorings. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and natural antioxidants that benefit the heart. You can find excellent quality wild Alaskan red sockeye salmon at: They will ship it direct to you.

Al Sears, MD

1. “Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.” Science. Jan. 9, 2004: 226-229

2. Associated Press, “Study Warns of Salmon Risks” Palm Beach Post,

January 9, 2004: 10A

3. U.S. Salmon Network

4. Lauren Sucher, Liz Moore. “First-Ever U.S. Tests of Farmed Salmon Show High Levels of Cancer-Causing PCBs.” Environmental Working Group. July 30, 2003

5.“Farmed salmon must be labeled as containing colorants.” Fish & Marine Conservation