The Dr. Oz Misinformation Machine Turns to Farmed Salmon

Dr. Oz has a shocking history of getting important nutrition and medical advice wrong. In fact, he even has the distinction of having been called on the carpet by Congress over his absurd prognostications and selling what can only be described as snake oil:

Washington Post: That time Congress railed against Dr. Oz for his ‘miracle’ diet pills

CNN: Congressional hearing investigates Dr. Oz ‘miracle’ weight loss claims

ABC News: Dr. Oz Scolded by Senators for ‘Miracle’ Weight Loss Claims

His failure to employ real experts and glean accurate nutrition information for his viewers now extends to farmed salmon.

On The Dr. Oz Show today he’s talking about farmed salmon and rather than turning to actual aquaculture experts, involved in fish farming for a living, Dr. Oz turns to a food critic who writes books about “faked food,” Larry Olmsted. When Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigated farmed salmon for the CBS show 60 Minutes, he called on doctors and dietitians in addition to experts like Ian Roberts from Marine Harvest. Dr. Gupta’s thorough exploration came to a much clearer conclusion and one that stands in contrast to Dr. Oz’s hyperbole.

For starters, Dr. Oz embarrassingly marginalizes his already marginal credibility right off the bat with this exchange:

Olmsted: The good news is the farmed salmon does contain at least as much of the omega-3’s, the good stuff, as the wild salmon.

Dr. Oz: It does?

Olmsted: Sometimes more.

Dr. Oz: Why is that? I would think it would have less because they’re not, the farmed salmon, are not eating the krill and the shrimp.

Olmsted: Um… it’s added in, it’s built into their feed.

Dr. Oz: I guess there’s more fat in the salmon as well when it comes as farm raised. That’s… because we’ve been telling our viewers that the omega-3 content is quite different but it’s not?

Olmsted: It’s not. It’s at least as good in the farmed.

Don’t underestimate how damaging that overt admission by Dr. Oz is. He says, on national television, that a core claim about farmed salmon that he has made over and over to his audience is just plain wrong.

Despite the fact that it’s Olmsted who corrects Dr. Oz, his presentation is primarily not a science-based effort and he does allow Oz and his producers to perpetuate inaccuracies. For instance, the idea that farm raised salmon are “dyed.” Dr. Oz compares salmon feed to “self-tanning supplements.” Interestingly on 60 Minutes Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s investigation came to a different conclusion:

  • “It’s not accurate to call these artificial dyes. I think people conjure up this image of the farmed 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.”

Oz’s overwhelmingly skeptical chronicle of farmed salmon stands in stark contrast to the 60 Minutes piece, where Dr. Gupta says:

  • “There are people who say I only order wild salmon—I guess the question would be, why are you doing that? If you’re doing it because you think it’s better for your health, for health reasons, you’d have a hard time makin’ that case.”

Despite Oz’s own unfavorable narrative about farmed salmon, Todd Mitgang, Executive Chef of Crave Fishbar, is featured on the very same episode saying,

  • “I think farmed salmon, aquaculture, is finally here. Years ago when I was selling seafood I probably never would have looked at farmed products. Now farmed salmon is a product I can look to for consistency, for quality and it’s sustainable.”

To attract viewers Oz needs a controversy, he needs shock and aw, even outrage. When he doesn’t have that he works hard to manufacture it and despite his colleague’s analysis, sound science and even his own guests, he takes aim at farmed salmon and produces a show that contradicts, confuses and confounds… not the sign of a well-meaning doctor.