A New USC Study Supports the Scientific Consensus on Moms and Seafood
A new USC seafood study on the connection between maternal seafood consumption and children’s health was recently released. And while the study isn’t the last word on the matter it is consistent with the overwhelming scientific consensus that seafood consumption has real and lasting benefits for expectant mothers and growing children.
The media coverage of the research, however, is mixed at best and marked by confusing or inaccurate descriptions of its results and significance. Some of the coverage, like a story from NBC’s affiliate in Los Angeles, even inaccurately claims that the study shows the highest levels of seafood consumption by moms yielded an adverse effect on children’s health. That’s not just false, it’s irresponsible, and will only further the confusing and conflicted advice too many moms get on seafood and health.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The USC seafood study finds that moms eating seafood 2-3 times a week during pregnancy is associated with improvements in a variety of health markers in their children. These include waist circumference, insulin levels, HDL cholesterol levels, and markers for inflammation.
- The study findings support the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that pregnant women eat 2-3 servings of seafood each week.
Here’s how the study worked:
- Researchers looked at 805 moms and their children aged 6-12 from across Europe (where seafood consumption is higher than the U.S., incidentally).
- Fish intake was broken down into 3 categories: low (ate fish less than once a week), moderate (ate fish one to three times a week), and high (ate fish more than three times a week).
- Fish intake was based on dietary recall, meaning they simply asked participants what they ate rather than directly observing it.
- Then, they measured some key elements of the children’s health, including waist circumference, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood insulin levels.
What did they find?
- Compared with low fish intake, moderate fish intake during pregnancy was associated with a decrease in children’s metabolic syndrome score, a key measure of health.
- High fish intake during pregnancy was also associated with a decrease in metabolic syndrome score, though the effect was a bit smaller.
- Even a doubling in moms’ mercury levels were associated with higher metabolic syndrome score.
- Compared with low fish intake and low mercury levels during pregnancy, the combination of moderate fish intake and low mercury exposure was associated with the greatest decrease in metabolic syndrome score, while the combination of low fish intake and high mercury exposure during pregnancy was associated the greatest increase in metabolic syndrome score.
What’s more, the study does not show high fish consumption is linked to any adverse effects on children’s metabolic health. And, that the coverage suggesting otherwise is perpetuating dangerous myths, not facts supported by evidence.
Even as we point out the coverage that got this study wrong, it’s important to highlight the coverage that got it right. The New York Times, for instance, correctly described the study’s finding that the highest weekly fish consumption was not found to have an additional benefit above three servings a week. This is a far cry from the NBC LA story’s insinuation of adverse effects and fear-mongering about mercury.
Decades of studies show the brain benefits of pregnant women eating seafood 2-3 times every week. This study shows that the benefits of pregnant women eating seafood 2-3 times each week extends beyond baby’s brain development. The bottom line is that this study’s findings support the recommendation that pregnant women should eat a variety of seafood 2-3 times each week for a variety of important health benefits. Expectant moms deserve the best science on seafood and nutrition, and a press that knows how accurately to present it.
Times Like These Call For Safe, Healthy Seafood
The medical and nutrition community, globally, agree; seafood is the healthiest animal protein on the planet. A stream of recommendations and reports scream Eat These Foods Now to Boost Your Immunity, What to eat to stay healthy and happy and 11 Healthy Long-Lasting Foods For Self-Isolation. Seafood is, and has been, on the front lines of the fight for personal health and longevity.
Seafood is also an important economic driver in this country, from the men and women who work the water, to those who cut and truck the fish that ends up on American plates. The Department of Commerce estimates seafood accounts for half a million U.S. jobs and more than 100 billion in sales.
The COVID 19 pandemic is a serious concern effecting not only public health but commerce at every level. While we have all been asked to attend to our individual health by practicing social distancing and following the recommendations of experts, the government should take action to protect the supply chain. Maintaining access to safe healthy food, like seafood, while safeguarding the jobs of those who produce it is imperative. Americans can do their part by continuing to buy from restaurants through carry out and, of course, from retailers to enjoy at home.
Keeping Americans and the seafood community healthy is vital.
Everything You Need to Know About Sustainable Seafood, Wild-Caught, and Farm-Raised (Aquaculture) Fish
Thinking About Sustainable Seafood
We get it. There is a lot of confusing and contradictory messaging on seafood sustainability out there. You want reliable, accurate, and straightforward information about how much and which kinds of sustainable seafood you should be eating—and, if there is anything you should avoid. With more and more farm-raised fish options available, you also want to know that aquacultured fish is just as good for you as wild-caught.
You care about seafood sustainability, too, so you want to know which sourcing methods are ethical and environmentally responsible.
Lastly, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have other nutrition sensitivities, or you are giving personal or professional guidance to someone who does, you want to make sure that all of this is safe and healthy for you and those you care about.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you!
Here is what you need to know.
A Great Majority of Seafood Is Sustainable
The news on seafood sustainability is unequivocally, inarguably GOOD. The majority of fish stocks around the world, including the most widely-eaten varieties in the U.S., are healthy and thriving.
That’s thanks to decades of hard work from international organizations dedicated to preserving and improving fishing practices and management.
Meanwhile, overfishing in the United States is at an all-time low.
The internet is full of confusing and complicated guides and lists, often from less than reputable sources. But you’re not on your own when it comes to seafood sustainability.
The reality is that seafood retailers and restaurants are already putting a huge amount of work into ensuring their products come from sustainable sources. Many of the largest grocery stores have great sustainable seafood policies you can view online. If you are shopping at one of these stores, you should feel confident about your purchases.
What About Farm-Raised (Aquaculture) Fish?
Farm-raised (or aquaculture) fish is a healthy choice. It provides heart-healthy omega-3s, vitamin D, and protein, and is low in saturated fat. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, both wild-caught and farm-raised fish have the same broad health benefits – reduced risk of heart disease and improved brain development. Even better? Both are widely available from sustainable seafood sources.
In contrast to other sources of animal protein, which often require significantly altering or transforming the natural environment, wild-caught and aquacultured seafood have a considerably smaller footprint.
The most widely eaten seafood in the U.S.—salmon and shrimp—come from a mix of wild-caught and farm-raised sources. This mix affords year-round availability, increasing their value and appeal as key nutritional staples.
A wider availability also helps keep prices reasonable, giving cost-conscious consumers more affordable healthy options, which means better decisions about what protein goes on the plate. And sourcing from a mix of wild and farmed stocks helps keep wild populations sustainable.
So What SHOULD I be Worried About When it Comes to Seafood Sustainability?
The biggest thing to worry about when it comes to seafood? Scientific research shows the biggest concern you should have is whether you are eating enough of it.
The average American eats just one serving of seafood weekly. And studies show that the kind of contradictory advice they are getting online—including “good versus bad” fish lists—are making things worse, since confused consumers avoid seafood all together.
The science is overwhelmingly clear that the health benefits of eating seafood are real, and they far outweigh any perceived risks.
Some people may need a more specific plan of action than “eat more seafood,” and they’re in luck. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all Americans eat at least 2-3 servings of a variety of seafood each week. That’s 8 to 12 ounces every week.
Want to Dive Deeper?
So while seafood sustainability is a hugely complex topic, the bottom line for consumers is actually pretty simple.
Eat more of a variety of seafood—start at two or three times a week. Choose farm-raised fish and/or wild-caught. Aquaculture is great, wild-caught is great. And, check your store’s sustainability section online for information on the varieties you prefer. (But if you’re wondering whether most common types of both farm-raised and wild-caught seafood are sustainably produced, the answer is almost certainly yes.)
To find out more, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has a great resource called FishWatch. It gets into everything from sourcing and health benefits to taste and availability. http://www.fishwatch.gov/
Or perhaps you want to take a deeper dive into seafood because you’re a health-care provider or nutrition professional who advises others about health and diet. In that case, there is a great resource from a nonprofit group panel, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health. Their work studies what diets are good for people and the planet. To meet the nutritional needs of the planet into the future, the report recommends we increase our intake of seafood, fruits, and green vegetables. The optimum omnivore diet is defined as being built around fish and shellfish, with no distinction between farm-raised and wild-caught. These findings also have the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). FAO is working at a global and government level to spread the word about the importance of eating enough—and eating a variety—of seafood.
Janelle Monáe Mercury Poisoning: Not From Seafood
Janelle Monáe Mercury Poison: Janelle Monáe Joins the Dubious List of Amateur Celebrity Doctors Dispensing Advice That’s Bad for Your Health
Janelle Monáe is a talented actress and musician. But you know what she is not? A doctor. Or a nutritionist. Or a toxicologist. So why are checkout aisle magazines like People taking at face value her recent claim to be recovering from “mercury poisoning” due to her pescatarian diet? We’ve heard this kind of unsupported claim from celebrities and pseudo-lifestyle gurus before. And it’s not just uninformed—it’s dangerous.
Arguably the most important shortcoming in the American diet is a lack of seafood. Low seafood consumption is linked by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies to poor heart health and brain development, and thousands of early deaths each year. 90% of Americans already fall short of government recommended seafood intake, and baseless claims like Monáe’s only perpetuates the kind of fear that keeps fish off their plates.
Janelle Monáe Mercury Poison: Not Seafood Related
There has never—ever—been a case of mercury poisoning from the normal consumption of commercial seafood found in any published, peer-reviewed medical journal. It’s simply not something that happens—amateur self-diagnoses from pop stars aside.
This isn’t a case where you “have to hear both sides” or look at competing evidence—because one side doesn’t have any. Fish is an important source of key nutrients and a widely-recognized building block of a healthy diet. Nobody who is buying farm-raised or wild-caught seafood from reputable supermarkets or restaurants is in danger of “mercury poisoning.” Even if you’re a pescatarian. Even if you’re eating, say, tuna for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Even if you’re Janelle Monáe.
The Science-Based Health Advice Environmental Activists Don’t Want You To Hear
Threat of Mercury: Spreading the Mercury Myth
Quacks, hucksters, and snake-oil salesmen peddling junk science and miracle cures have been around at least as long as the traveling medicine shows of the Old West. But whereas the flimflam men of the pre-digital world could deceive only as far as the sound of their voice would carry, a new generation of shamans and gurus are exploiting mass media, internet virality, and social networks to mislead ever greater swaths of the public in the course of lining their own pockets.
Often, the humbug they hock is relatively harmless—many fad diets, for instance, are unlikely to actually hurt people who try them, whether or not they bring any real or lasting benefit. But the constellation of myths and mistruths surrounding seafood is unique in this area, and public health is already suffering in a very real way from the propagation of false and harmful claims about mercury.
Why You Should Eat More Seafood
Virtually every major health organization in the United States wants you to eat more seafood as part of a healthy diet. In “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the federal government recommends that everyone should increase their consumption of seafood, and that pregnant women in particular should eat at least 2 to 3 servings each week. That’s because seafood provides nutrients that benefit cardiovascular health: A Harvard study showed that some 84,000 cardiac-related deaths could be prevented each year with proper servings of fish in the diet. Another long-term study showed that children whose mothers ate three to four servings of fish a week had IQ scores that were 2.8 percent higher than those whose mothers ate less fish.
Surprised? Studies Show Alarmist Information Scares Consumers Away from Healthy Options
If this information surprises you—if you are surprised to learn that eating seafood not only won’t harm you, but that it is essential for better health—it is precisely because of the dangerous and irresponsible behavior of environmental activists who have taken advantage of a media environment where the loudest, most ridiculous claims get the greatest attention with the least scrutiny. According to the National Academy of Sciences, distorted and alarmist information being trumpeted by eco-activist groups is leading to reduced consumption of the very kinds of food you should be eating.
Exploiting the Mercury Myth at the Cost of Public Health
These groups are able to worm their way into publications by exaggerating the potential for harm and then offering “solutions” that are anything but. In a recent “Food Poisoning News” article, for example, NRDC hypes the threat of mercury in fish, when in fact there are only a small number of species of fish that pregnant women should stay away from because of higher mercury levels. They include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, marlin and orange roughy. Most people rarely or never eat these kinds of fish anyway, so the advice NRDC offers serves only to discourage people from eating fish at all. Not surprising for an organization whose website markets a “safety zone” calculator that says certain fish can cause brain damage.
Organizations that use this kind of hyperbole refuse to look at the data and face the reality that the benefits outweigh any potential harm. It is a dangerous game to downplay the health benefits of eating fish. Americans don’t wind up in the hospital because they consumed fish with miniscule trace amounts of mercury that have always been present because of geo-thermal activity or other simple, scientific reasons. There’s not even a single case of mercury poisoning from normal commercial seafood consumption in any U.S. medical journal. But they certainly are healthier the more fish they consume.
Who Got It Wrong:
That won’t dissuade these groups from continuing to champion their message, especially as news outlets are keen to pick it up. Over the last year alone, we’ve seen Care2, Glamour, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, and Woman’s Day run with stories highlighting the threat of mercury in fish, playing up a threat that is already small, while entirely ignoring the importance of eating seafood. This leads to confusion among readers about what they should be doing, to the detriment of their health.
Activist groups that champion this message don’t care about sound science or you and your health. They care about fundraising and their own survival. Ignore the noise. Help your health. Eat more seafood.
Learn more about fish and mercury on our blog.
Students at UC Santa Cruz Need to Eat More Tuna, Not Less: Administrators Get It Wrong
Imagine sitting in your college dining hall. Your roommate sits down across from you with a bowl of marshmallow-festooned cereal, a slice of pizza, a cheeseburger, and some ice cream. As he announces that he is redistributing the pepperoni on his slice so there is a bit in every bite, he looks at your meal in horror. “Don’t you realize that’s unhealthy?” he asks, motioning to the marinated albacore in your salad.
University of California Santa Cruz “Study” is Flawed
This scenario just got a whole lot more real recently when University of California Santa Cruz administrators took the absurd step of announcing labels on tuna products in dining halls with warnings about the “risks” of consuming tuna that could contain mercury. The move comes after an activist, who is now an adjunct professor at the school, released a survey of tuna consumption by students that purportedly found “raised” mercury levels in some.
But the UC Santa Cruz study is flawed and unscientific. It sampled 61 students over just two months during two different years, too small a number over too brief an interval to draw substantive conclusions, let alone build policy around. And nutrition studies based on self-reporting are often inaccurate, given that people’s guesses about their food consumption are skewed—can they be certain, for example, the fish they ate was tuna? What kind?
On top of the poor research quality, the clear bias of the lead researcher should dismiss her findings. Myra Finkelstein is currently an adjunct associate professor at UC Santa Cruz. She is also a board member of Turtle Island Restoration Network, creators of a project designed to scare consumers away from eating seafood called “Got Mercury?” Prior to this, she was a part of the group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which was founded by a Greenpeace alum and even labeled an “eco-terrorist” group by the Japanese government. This severe conflict should have been disclosed in the study. Finkelstein does not appear to be a dispassionate researcher.
The reality is that there has never been a single case of mercury poisoning from normal commercial seafood consumption documented in any U.S. medical journal. A team of scientists and FDA advisors reviewed an exhaustive body of research on mercury risk compared to the beneficial nutrients in fish. They strongly concluded that “consistent evidence shows that the health benefits from consuming a variety of seafood in the amounts recommended outweigh the health risks associated with methyl mercury” (USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines for Americans).
Make no mistake: Tuna is healthy. UC Santa Cruz officials are letting bad science guide policy decisions that will cause their students real harm.
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans urges consumers to eat more fish, including tuna. Why? Because seafood’s omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, vitamins, minerals strengthen the heart and brain. Growing bodies need proteins and omega-3s play an essential part in healthy brain and eye development. The USDA also recommends that Americans eat at least two to three servings of seafood per week.
So what happens if students listen to administrators who base these decisions of a single, flawed study? They’ll fall into the same trap that the FDA has warned about, that most Americans are eating dangerously low amounts of seafood, a deficiency they say contributes to nearly 84,000 preventable deaths each year. Another long-term study showed that children whose mothers ate three to four servings of fish a week had IQ scores that were 2.8 percent higher than those whose mothers ate less fish.
Studies like the ones at UC Santa Cruz are precisely what the National Academy of Sciences had in mind when they found that distorted and alarmist information is leading to reduced consumption of the very kinds of food students should be eating.
If you don’t put sound science first, you put students at risk. Let the students maintain a healthy diet. Let them eat their tuna in peace.
Note to Reporters: Stop Needlessly Scaring Consumers
Some opportunistic bloggers and click-bait reporters are using a new study on climate change and mercury to scare consumers away from eating seafood. It’s the same sad song and dance we’ve seen time and again from irresponsible voices who’d rather grab eyeballs than actually help inform the public.
Here’s what you really need to know about the study:
- As we already detailed in this blog post, the study is not about people, or human seafood consumption. The researchers looked exclusively at mercury levels in fish, not human beings who eat fish.
- The amounts of mercury in fish measured by the researchers were well within the safety limits set by the FDA.
- There is no reason for the authors to mention canned or pouched tuna. The research did not look at the most commonly consumed tuna products: Canned and pouched varieties that predominantly come from skipjack, albacore, and occasionally yellowfin (which is identified on product labels). Yet the introduction to the study claims mercury exposure can come from fresh and canned tuna, even though there has never been a confirmed case of mercury poisoning in any U.S. medical journal. So why bring tuna into it at all? Perhaps because the authors know that tying their research to a common consumer product will give uncareful journalists a hook for their coverage. And wouldn’t you know it, nearly every piece on the study mentions the spurious tuna “connection.”
Here are some specific examples: Discover Magazine included the phrase “making seafood more toxic” in their headline – even though the study had nothing to do with nutrition and mercury levels reported were still well within the safety margins. The blog Medical News Today used a similar ploy with the non-sequitur headline “Why fish may become more toxic than ever.”
Environmental activist blog Grist drew its own spurious conclusions, writing “Climate change is making it more dangerous to eat certain fish.” What they left out is that Americans are already eating dangerously low amounts of seafood, contributing to a public health crisis. So consumers should be eating more seafood, not less.
But the Daily Mail might take the prize for scare-mongering theatrics with this ridiculous headline: “Is this the end of fish and chips? Soaring levels of mercury in the world’s oceans could make COD too dangerous for humans.”
Ordinary readers scanning these headlines wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that ordering tuna salad or fish tacos for lunch might put their health at risk. When in fact the opposite—avoiding seafood in favor of other sources of protein—is far closer to the truth.
Seafood like canned and pouched tuna are nutritious, affordable, and safe. Tuna and other seafood are rich in key nutrients like vitamins B12 and D, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and beneficial omega-3s called EPA and DHA. You can read all about these benefits here.
Virtually every major health organization in the United States urges consumers to eat more seafood as part of a healthy diet. In the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the federal government recommends that everyone should increase their consumption of seafood, and that pregnant women in particular eat at least 2 to 3 servings each week.
A comprehensive study from Harvard, focused on nutrition and public health, showed that some 84,000 cardiac-related deaths could be prevented each year with proper servings of fish in the diet. And reams of independent research have shown that seafood is vital for cognitive development in growing children, associated with as much as a 3-point boost in IQ.
And that’s the bottom line: Sensationalist reporting that skews the facts is not just bad for your mind—it’s bad for your brain.
Salmon Nutrition: Everything You Need to Know About Salmon
Known for its pink color, health benefits and versatility, salmon has been at the center of the seafood world for years. From commonly eaten species and salmon nutrition information to the farmed vs. wild debate, find everything you need to know about salmon here.
Types of Salmon
Salmon is primarily classified in one of two main categories: Pacific and Atlantic. The Atlantic salmon found in supermarkets and restaurants is farmed; its wild counterpart is protected under the Endangered Species Act, so commercial fishing of Atlantic salmon is prohibited in the United States. Meanwhile, species within the Pacific salmon category are by and large wild-caught from the west coast of the U.S., primarily from Alaska. Within the Pacific salmon category, the most commonly eaten species for salmon nutrition are Chinook, Pink, Chum, Coho and Sockeye.
- Atlantic: Atlantic salmon is farm-raised all over the world. Like wild-caught salmon, their flesh is reddish-orange or pink. Atlantic salmon have a high oil content and firm, fatty texture. Historically, Atlantic salmon are spawned and raised in on-land hatcheries until they are large enough for transfer to net-pens in coastal waters. More recently, however, companies have developed land-based farming operations from spawning through harvest.
- Chinook: Chinook salmon, commonly referred to as King salmon, is the largest of the species wild-caught in the Pacific, weighing twenty pounds on average. Chinook have a bold flavor, high fat content and a buttery, flaky texture. Their meat is red.
- Sockeye: Sockeye salmon is known for its rich flavor and has the reddest flesh of the wild salmon species. Almost all the sockeye salmon commercially harvested in the United States comes from Alaska fisheries. Sockeye is firm and fatty.
- Pink: Pink salmon is the smallest but most abundant species wild-caught in Alaska, and to a smaller extent Washington and Oregon. Pink salmon typically weighs between two and three pounds. It has a lower oil content, which makes it a leaner and mild-flavored fish with soft, pale pink meat.
- Chum: There are hundreds of stocks of Chum salmon in Alaska and several other Pacific stocks. Chum salmon, also called Keta, have a firm and meaty texture, making them ideal for smoking or grilling. Chum salmon has lower oil content, which gives it a mild flavor.
- Coho: Coho salmon is known for its orange flesh and is the second largest of the wild Alaska salmon species. Coho salmon has a high oil content and becomes firm and flaky when cooked.
Salmon is one of the most nutrient-packed foods you can eat. A three-ounce serving is rich in protein, vitamin B12, selenium and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential to eye, brain, and heart health. Omega-3s, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in salmon, are crucial for brain growth and development in infants and are very beneficial when eaten during pregnancy.
Omega-3s cannot be made by the body, so they must be consumed from food, like salmon. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week, specifically highlighting, “fatty fish like salmon.” On top of beneficial nutrients and protein, salmon is also low in saturated fat and sodium.
Eating seafood, like salmon, helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, optimizes brain health, and promotes a healthy weight. The U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating two to three servings of a variety of fish a week, including salmon.
Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon
Farmed-raised and wild-caught seafood work together to provide a sustainable global seafood supply. Currently, 67% of salmon eaten in the United States is farmed and 33 percent is wild-caught. Both are excellent choices for a healthy, sustainable meal.
Modern-day aquaculture was revolutionized by a growing world population and demand for seafood coupled with the fact that wild fisheries are effectively and sustainably fished to their maximum sustainable yield. Pacific salmon caught in the U.S. is considered one of the best-managed fisheries in the world. Wild-caught salmon is iconic, delicious, healthy and sustainable. Farm-raised salmon is also regulated and monitored to ensure farming practices have a minimal impact on the environment and ecosystem. Farm-raised salmon is widely available, delicious, healthy and sustainable.
The U.S. government’s committee for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans thoroughly explored the health and safety of both wild-caught and farm-raised fish. The committee, comprised of 14 credentialed doctors and registered dietitians, concluded that, “based on risk/benefit comparisons, either farmed or wild-caught seafood are appropriate choices to consume to meet current Dietary Guidelines for Americans for increased seafood consumption.”
When it comes to choosing wild-caught salmon or farm-raised salmon, it’s not an either, or scenario. Both types of salmon are a smart choice and the decision ultimately depends on an individual’s flavor preference, price, and availability.
Salmon Color and Farmed Salmon
Wild salmon’s diet consists of shrimp and other sea creatures that contain carotenoids which give the fish its signature color. Farmed salmon gets its color the same way that wild-caught salmon does: from food.
CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, devoted an extraordinary amount of time and research into an expose for 60 Minutes about farmed salmon where he explained that the “dyed” salmon narrative was simply a myth that needed rebutting: “It’s not accurate to call these artificial dyes. I think people conjure up this image of the farm salmon being injected with something that causes it to turn that pink color. That’s not what’s happening here. It’s a much more natural occurring process where the farmed salmon eat a type of food that causes a reaction in the body, just like the wild salmon does, and that causes that more pinkish color.”
The Skinny on Salmon
Salmon is widely considered a “superfood” and is a smart choice whether salmon is farmed or wild-caught, it’s a simple choice, an easy and delicious way to get valuable nutrients. With the help of sustainable fishing practices and aquaculture, this versatile species can continue to flourish and arrive on tables and in markets all around the world so that all can benefit from salmon nutrition. For salmon recipes, visit Dish on Fish.
Is Bloomberg Beyond Fact-Checking?
A recent Bloomberg article claims, “the Beyond Meat of seafood is coming.” Beyond Meat is a company that creates plant-based imitation products to resemble burgers, sausages and other meat products. Bloomberg suggests plant-based imitation seafood products or lab-grown seafood (a totally different product from the imitation plant effort altogether) could be a solution. Or a solution in search of a problem.
While food production methods like Beyond Meat and the seafood imitation varieties certainly have a place in the market, and deserve to be lauded for their ingenuity, it’s not accurate to suggest they’re the answer to “depleting oceans” and “problematic fish-farming.” Companies promoting seafood imitation products have been seen making unsubstantiated sustainability claims about fisheries and aquaculture (all while trading on seafood’s good nutrition name) and for Bloomberg to parrot these claims as fact – in a sub-head no less – is poor journalism.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 67% of global fisheries are sustainable. That number estimates all global fisheries and does not consider the volume from each fish stock that is actually eaten. According to Sustainable Fisheries UW, an organization created by a group of fishery scientists led by Dr. Ray Hilborn, “management resources, like regulation and enforcement, are concentrated in larger fisheries to ensure that a larger percentage of consumed fish is sustainable.” That group notes that a recent estimate showed that about 82% of consumed fish are sustainable.
When it comes to carbon footprint, wild-caught fish have an enviable low impact. They require no land, feed, or freshwater, and they are a renewable resource when properly managed. In fact, a recent study found that certain popular wild-caught seafood products are more climate-friendly than a purely vegan diet. A recent New York Times expose about the impact of food on climate change also spotlights certain wild-caught seafood as “great low-carbon choices.”
The 5 species of wild salmon commercially fished in the United States are considered a “smart choice” for consumers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), because they are are sustainably managed and responsibly harvested. It’s incorrect to suggest wild salmon populations are broadly on the brink of collapse because of “skyrocketing demand.” In fact, wild salmon is often touted for its sustainability story. Why are the authors of this piece claiming there is a threatened supply of wild salmon? What do they know that the NOAA scientists don’t?
Meanwhile, the idea that fish farming is the “wild west” without robust standards and regulations associated with other types of agriculture is wrong, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the industry. Modern-day aquaculture was revolutionized by a growing world population and demand for seafood coupled with the fact that wild fisheries are at their maximum sustainable yield. In the last few decades, major strides have been made in the aquaculture community resulting in some of the most efficient and sustainably farmed seafood products available to markets globally.
The president of the Global Aquaculture Alliance also responded to the apparent ignorance about fish farming seen in this article:
“In my experience, the authors of these claims have never been to a fish farm or looked at a broad sample of what modern fish farms look like. It’s not perfect, but no food production system is. And what these authors conveniently exclude from their claims is that there’s a global sustained effort is to ensure that best practices are applied and standards are raised through third-party certification programs like the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices.”
In the same study that found wild-capture seafood can be better for the environment than a vegan diet, salmon farming is highlighted as another low-impact form of food production. “Small pelagic fisheries and mollusk and salmon aquaculture score very well across a range of metrics for several reasons… salmon aquaculture because salmon pens require no water pumping and feed conversion is quite efficient.”
Like any type of food production, salmon farming has its challenges and sea lice is one of them, as the Bloomberg authors mention. Salmon farmers dedicate a multitude of resources and seek innovation to address these types of issues and continue to see improvements. The claim that these challenges are contributing to “ecosystem destruction” is misleading and hyperbolic.
Journalists note: Plant-based Imitation Seafood Products—Fine, Imitation Facts—Not Fine
Plant-based imitation seafood products and lab-grown fish have seen a swell of media attention in 2019. That’s not by accident, many of these impressive food technology companies are beginning to market their products and themselves as they seek investments.
Demonizing seafood products with unsubstantiated statements about sustainability, fisheries science and aquaculture practices in order to promote imitation products is lazy, disingenuous marketing. For journalists to repeat the claims as fact is irresponsible.
Glamour Magazine Fails Pregnant Women with its Seafood Advice
Nutrition Experts Say Pregnant Moms Should Eat More Seafood. Glamour Magazine Says They Shouldn’t. Who Do You Think Wins This Debate?
Would you trust Glamour, a beauty magazine, over peer-reviewed science when deciding what to eat while you’re pregnant or trying to have a baby? What about a fashion magazine versus hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, along with the advice of top medical professionals, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists?
That’s the question Glamour magazine recently put to its readers in publishing “9 Foods to Avoid if You’re Trying to Get Pregnant.” The article severely mangles recommendations made by the FDA, among others, and blatantly contradicts the public health organization’s advice, instead advising women to do something studies show will cause them harm.
It’s that bad.
The Problem with Glamour’s Recommendations
Glamour author Suzannah Weiss warns pregnant women and those trying to get pregnant to avoid “mercury-rich” seafood such as tuna, warning that eating “high-mercury fish before you’re pregnant” can build up stores of mercury. The problem? Weiss wrongly considers tuna a mercury risk, ignoring guidance given by FDA officials and exacerbating dangerous misperceptions about seafood that can contribute to the very kind of malnutrition the author herself decries in another article.
Pregnant Women Should Eat More Seafood
In fact, the FDA and the USDA recommend pregnant women and those trying to get pregnant eat more seafood, including tuna, with just one exception— the “bigeye” species of tuna commonly used in sushi. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans make clear that it’s important to eat a variety of cooked seafood 2-3 times each week during pregnancy.
Sadly, the average pregnant woman is eating woefully too little seafood. One study found that “only 10 percent of women met the recommendations” for “getting the right amount of whole grains, fatty acids, and sodium.”
Glamour’s Reporting has Consequences
Misguided reporting that discourages the consumption of fish has consequences. The World Health Organization points out that avoiding seafood may actually mean missing out on the best possible brain development for babies. That’s because seafood is one of the only foods naturally rich in a healthy fatty acid called omega-3 DHA, necessary for a baby’s brain and eye development. Other nutrients found in seafood—including protein, calcium, vitamin D and iron—help build bones and muscles.
The FDA’s recommended limit for mercury in seafood also has a ten-fold safety-factor built in. And the FDA’s Net Effects report, which is based on 100 peer-reviewed studies, found that a pregnant woman could eat 56 ounces of tuna per week, without worry. That’s equivalent to tuna for lunch and dinner, every day of the week.
Tuna is Safe During Pregnancy
Let’s be clear. Tuna is one of many safe, healthy seafood choices pregnant women can make. You can learn more about tuna and pregnancy here. In the meantime, it would seem that the best health advice for expectant mothers, or women trying to get pregnant, is to avoid Glamour magazine’s nutrition advice.