Eagerly Awaiting Laura Reiley’s Next Salmon Story

When Laura Reiley, the Food Critic for the Tampa Bay Times, wrote a report titled, “The facts about farmed salmon you wish you didn’t know.” We thought it prudent to reach out to her and note some facts that perhaps she didn’t know.

We noted to her editors, that she asserts, without direct attribution or quotes that, “large salmon farms also use high levels of antibiotics.” However, nowhere does she state that, per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, unapproved antibiotics are not permitted in fish sold in the United States. In addition, nowhere does she endeavor to explain the history of introducing effective vaccines to farmed raised salmon in order to prevent the need for antibiotics.

We also pointed out that she falls for decades old hyperbole when she incorrectly claimed that farm raised salmon is dyed red. We referred her editors to Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s expose about salmon for 60 Minutes, where he notes the carotenoids that salmon normally ingest in the wild are added to their feed when they’re farmed, giving them their pink color. Saying they are “dyed” is not accurate. When she writes, “farmers add dyes to their feed” it is simply false.

We also highlighted that her implicit endorsement of wild salmon over farmed is bolstered by a section in which she suggests the feed farm raised salmon eat contributes to an undesirable omega-3 ratio. We had to make her aware that the USDA Nutrient Database lists farmed salmon as higher in omega-3s than wild. Both are safe, healthy and delicious. However, to allow one to be maligned with misinformation is an editorial failure.

In fact, with regard to the “Omega-3 versus Omega-6” subject, it is an issue that has been researched, discussed and pondered but farmed salmon is not responsibly part of that debate.  According to the USDA Nutrient Database mentioned before, 4 oz. of farmed Atlantic salmon has 2433mg EPA+DHA omega-3s and 755mg linoleic acid omega-6. While 4 oz. wild Coho salmon has 1200mg EPA+DHA omega-3’s and 63mg linoleic acid omega-6.

While there is more omega-6 fat in the USDA sample of farmed salmon, there is also more omega-3 fat. Given the average American diet, if you take a fat profile that includes either 2433mg of omega-3 or 1200mg of omega-3 to a cardiologist, or any doctor, they would turn summersaults with excitement, they would not suggest the patient consume less of either fish.

Perhaps most disturbing in her article is the complete lack of perspective provided the reader about the amount of PCB’s found in farmed salmon.  Nowhere is it mentioned that Harvard University research finds seafood broadly, not just farmed salmon, makes up only 9% of the PCB’s in the average American diet, while products like vegetables make up 20%. We asked the Tampa Bay Times if they planned to run a 500-word column in which Ms. Reiley suggests Americans eat fewer vegetables to avoid the PCB’s she seems so concerned about in farmed salmon? They did not respond to that question. Even after we provided the author with independent, peer-reviewed published research available in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that shows common everyday items like butter and even chicken account for far more PCBs that seafood.

  • “Among adults, major dietary sources of PCBs and dioxins are beef, chicken, and pork (34% of total TEQ); dairy products (30%); vegetables (22%); fish and shellfish (9%); and eggs (5%). Dietary sources are similar for children.

After a thorough back and forth on the issues raised in her article Ms. Reiley thanked us for our “thoughtful response” and let us know that if she feels “an additional story is merited” She would reach out to us.

We feel an additional story is merited.