Politicians and the fish farming industry are acting to abate concerns following eating health experts’ warning over Norwegian farmed salmon toxicity levels.
“I don’t recommend pregnant women, children, or young people eat farmed salmon. There is too much uncertainty regarding the amount of toxins salmon contains and how these affect children, adolescents and pregnant women,” Anne-Lise Bjørke Monsen, specialist at Bergen’s Haukeland University Hospital told VG in article including chief physician Bjørn Bolann
Ms Bjørke Monsen referred to the presence of Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) accumulating in the fat-rich fish. Included in this group is PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).
PCBs were previously a concern regarding fridges and aerosols, DDT – whilst also found in aerosols in the past – was used as a pesticide too. The use of both substances, found to affect polar bears in the Arctic – which also eat wild salmon – are banned in many parts of the world.
At the same time, the disposed products containing them have ended up on landfills and rubbish dumps. Rubbish burning is one method that releases them into the environment.
POPs affect bone density, and the Bergen hospital’s Ms Bjørke Monsen warned of their effect in humans, Monday. POPs build up in animals’, fat-rich fish’, and humans’ fatty tissue.
“These types of contaminants that have been detected in farmed salmon have a negative effect on brain development and are associated with autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and reduced IQ. We also know that they can affect other organ systems in the body such as the immune system and metabolism,” she declared.
Talking of the fatty tissue build-up, the expert added that “a lot of fat is mobilised when you are pregnant and starting to breastfeed that results in the toxins being transmitted to the child.”
“Farmed salmon contains POPs like any other fatty fish,” Lars Fredrik Martinussen, press spokesperson at the Norwegian Seafood Council tells The Foreigner.
“The important thing is to observe the limits set by Norwegian and international food safety authorities. These are set to make sure we are not exposed to any harmful levels of POPs. Norway has a monitoring system to make sure we don’t exceed these limits, and is in fact well below them.”
In a statement, the Council declares that several of Norway’s food safety bodies quite clearly state that farmed salmon is safe as a food.
“The Directorate of Health also recommends eating more fish, preferably two to three days per week and often also as toppings. This advice applies to everyone, including children, adolescents and pregnant women.”
Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen repeats health authorities’ advice to eat more fish.
Explaining “I’ve been aware that all fish contain contaminants, but farmed and wild fish are alike in this way” she declares she trusts the experts’ professional assessment skills.
Food fed to farmed fish comes from wild fish, which contain POPs.
“That’s why farmed salmon is just as healthy and as safe to eat as other wild fatty fish,” says the Minister.
Others are not as equally calm about the matter.
“Lisbeth Berg-Hansen is a partner in the Sinkaberg-Hansen fish farming company and has zero credibility in a debate regarding aquaculture,” environmental activist Kurt Oddekalv says to NTB.
He and his organisation the Green Warriors of Norway have been criticising the fish farming industry for years on several counts, including using of hazardous substances in the fish feed and sea pollution.
“I’m not surprised by what has appeared in VG, this is something we’ve been saying for a long time,” Mr Oddekalv declares.
“I want to know what she [Lisbeth Berg-Hansen] can do to reassure Norwegian consumers and the surrounding world that Norwegian farmed salmon is a healthy and clean product. That's what we've been hearing from researchers for many years,” demands Svein Flåtten MP, business policy spokesperson for the Conservative Party (H).
And while Progress’ (FrP) Harald Nesvik lends the Minister his support, Haukeland University Hopsital personnel says experts’ Anne-Lise Bjørke Monsen and Bjørn Bolann opinions are their own.
“There are differing opinions in the research environment within the nutrition field around the world, and it is important that different stances arise and become part of an ongoing debate. Haukeland University Hospital wishes to emphasise that the hospital has not drawn up our own nutritional advice, but relates to the current official national nutrition guidelines,” they say in a statement.
According to the press office earlier today, both experts are currently in the US contacting them has been unsuccessful when asked by the Norwegian media.