The Coastal Post - December, 1996

Imported Seafood Could Be Dangerous


Rumor has it that over 60% of all the seafood we eat is a product of technology rather than of nature. Aquaculture produces most of the "seafood," while the oceans of the world are over-fished trying to compete. Rumor also has it that some of the antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals used to keep a product alive may not be the healthy choice for the average human being. In the United States it might be safe to assume that the drugs used were safe for us in the long run, but what about other countries and what they think is safe for people of the United States to eat? Some of these countries don't even like us very much.

In a simpler time, less than 100 years ago, it might have been true that we are what we eat. But now, with the advance of technology, one would hope that the old adage is no longer true.

Seafood is the only food source I can speak about with personal experience, and I wonder if you have ever thought about where the seafood you eat actually comes from.

If you like salmon, you might be interested to know that most of the salmon we eat is farm-raised, as are the shrimp, scallops, sturgeon, catfish, bass and trout. Fish farming is the wave of the future, or at least I once thought it was.

All farms are governed by one universal law, and that is the law of economics. When it is no longer profitable to produce something, the whole operation stops. And along the same lines, the cheaper you can produce something, the better. When the fish farmer buys food for his fish, is he thinking about the people who might eat the fish, or is he thinking about how much it cost? If the fish get sick, is he wondering how the drugs will affect the consumer, or is he just concerned about saving the fish so they can be sold? And when the fish are raised in other countries, especially poorer countries, are our food and drug laws in place, or are there no rules as to which drugs are safe and which are not? Let your imagination be your guide.

All this boils down to one thing: All of us as consumers should demand to know where our seafood comes from so we can make a more conscious choice as to what we eat. We can read what is in a box of cookies, we can choose between organic and conventional produce, but when it comes to seafood, it is buyer beware.

Why is it this way, you ask? Again it is the law of economics that has the power. If a buyer can buy a salmon or some shrimp cheaper, he will. It does not mean that we will pay less for the product, because everyone needs to make a buck; it just means that wherever shrimp can be purchased cheapest is where most shrimp are bought.

By my way of thinking, this makes wild seafood much more desirable. I would much prefer the natural to the man-made. I trust in God, but I am not so sure about the motives of man.

How do you tell where your seafood came from? You can't. There are no laws requiring truth in advertising when it comes to seafood. There should be. The sad truth, however, is that there will never be a way to tell if the wholesalers have their way. It would cut too deeply into their profits. This should be another consumer issue; we have a right to know what we are eating and where it came from, but how can we make it happen? I have contacted several consumer hotlines and left messages, but so far, nobody seems to care.

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