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'Wild' Salmon in Stores May Be Farmed

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fresh wild salmon is gaining popularity over its farmed cousins for its leaner, tastier, less chemically-laden qualities, but recent studies from the New York Times reveal that even if stores say it’s wild, safety-conscious consumers may be paying top dollar for exactly the fish they’re trying to avoid.

The Times had “fresh wild salmon” from eight New York City stores tested in March and found that six of the samples were farm-raised. The “wild” salmon went for as much as $29 a pound, while farmed salmon sells for between $5 and $12 a pound in the city.

The tests were brought on by suspicions that so much wild salmon could be caught and sold in the November to March off-season. Strict quotas on endangered wild salmon populations mean that 90 percent of the salmon sold in America is farmed, but last month, 23 of 25 stores the Times called reported that they had wild salmon available.

Federal regulations requiring country-of-origin labeling took effect April 3.

Farmed salmon are fed artificial coloring to give them the pink hue that wild salmon get from eating smaller seafood like krill, and while the sophisticated palates of NYC chefs could taste the difference between the farmed and wild varieties, they were visually indistinguishable, making it impossible for the even savviest shoppers to choose their poison in-store.

And that’s exactly what they may be doing. Farmed salmon have been shown to have 16 times the levels of toxic PCBs found in wild salmon, largely because the chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue. PCBs are persistent, cancer-causing toxins that were banned in 1976 but continue contaminating food supplies and the environment.

View EWG’s investigation on PCBs in farmed salmon.

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