Report: Some 'Wild' Salmon May Be Farmed

Attention fish shoppers: Some “wild” salmon may actually come from a farm.

Consumer Reports dishes up the fish fraud in its August issue.

Stores aren’t required by law to label their salmon as “wild” or “farm-raised,” but if they use those labels, they’re supposed to be accurate, the magazine notes.

For its test,Consumer Reports bought salmon fillets from unnamed stores several times over a year and had the fish tested for synthetic coloring agents. “Without coloring, farmed salmon would be gray,” the magazine explains.

“Wild” salmon bought during summertime -- the high season for wild-caught salmon -- passed the test.

But of the 23 wild-labeled salmon fillets bought during November, December, and March, “only 10… were definitely caught in the wild. The rest came from salmon farms,” states Consumer Reports.

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All of the salmon claimed to come from a fish farm truly was farm-raised, according to the magazine.

Consumer Reports’ staff also bought two “organic” salmon fillets containing no mention of whether they came from a farm or the wild. Both were farm-raised. There are no federal standards for organic fish, the magazine points out.

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Cost & Health

Salmon labeled “wild” is usually more expensive than that sold as “farm-raised.” Consumer Reports paid nearly $13 per pound for wild salmon, nearly double the average price that correctly-labeled farm-raised salmon cost.

Salmon from fish farms may be more likely to contain contaminants such as dioxins and PCBs, notes Consumer Reports. However, the magazine didn’t test any of the salmon -- wild or farm-raised -- for toxins.

The magazine offers this advice to salmon shoppers:

--Go wild in summer. The Alaskan salmon season starts in May and ends in September. “That’s when fresh wild salmon is most abundant and, judging by our tests, most likely to be truthfully labeled,” states Consumer Reports.

--Look for canned Alaskan salmon. Alaska doesn’t allow salmon farming.

--Buy farmed Atlantic salmon from the U.S., Canada, or Chile. “It’s likely to have lower levels of PCBs and dioxins than salmon from Europe,” notes Consumer Reports.

--Consider taste. “Our expert salmon tasters noted that wild salmon has a stronger flavor and firmer flesh than farmed,” says Consumer Reports.

--If you want omega-3 fatty acids -- which are abundant in salmon -- for health reasons such as avoiding heart disease, you have other options, including fish-oil pills, flaxseed, and walnuts, the magazine also notes.

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By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Consumer Reports, August 2006; p 15. News release, Consumer Reports.