Greetings. Below and attached you will find my latest Bricks and Mortars column: One Very Toxic Stew. Please feel free to forward, share and post this column as you wish. And please forgive me if you have received this twice – I’m having technical problems.
One Very Toxic Stew
Bricks and Mortars
On October 26, 2018, I published a Bricks and Mortars column about Norwegian farm salmon entitled “The Most Toxic Food in the World?” The column was based on my conversations and interviews with Norwegian environmental activists, scientists and professors during my two weeks in Norway from September 11, 2018 to September 25, 2018.
That column’s title may be alarming, but the problem may be even worse than I thought.
On September 25, 2018, on my way from Fredrikstad, Norway to Odense, Denmark, I stopped off in Copenhagen, Denmark, where, between buses, I had a beer with a Danish friend. I had lived in Denmark for a year as an exchange student and had learned Danish, and I hadn’t been in Denmark in 20 years. It was great to be back and to order a beer in Danish.
I asked my friend whether he could get a sample of the yellowtail kingfish produced by the Nordic Aquafarms Sashimi Royal fish farm in Hanstholm, Denmark, and whether he could have it tested for toxins. He said he knew someone who owned a food business and could probably get the fish directly from Nordic Aquafarms, and he said he had a friend who worked in a laboratory that could probably test the fish for toxins. He said he would find out whether it could be done and would let me know.
I gave my friend funds for the laboratory test and told him I would give him more funds if he needed them, and I continued on my way to the charming 13th-century city of Odense for the night. The next day I continued on to Fredericia, Denmark, where I interviewed perhaps the world’s foremost expert on land-based fish farms, and then on to Thisted, where I interviewed a former Nordic Aquafarms employee who told me about alleged Nordic violations of Danish labor law and child labor law, all of which I wrote about in other Bricks and Mortars columns.
After I returned home to Belfast October 4, my Danish friend emailed me. He could get the yellowtail kingfish directly from Nordic Aquafarms and his friend’s laboratory could run the toxins tests – we were all set.
I waited patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, as the project was delayed by a need to establish exactly what we wanted to test for, and by my friend’s business travels.
On December 10, I finally got the laboratory test results and I forwarded them by email to Dr. Claudette Bethune, Associate Director of Clinical Development for Ionis Pharmaceuticals in Carlsbad, California. Dr. Bethune was a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Safety from 2003 to 2006 and was pressured out of that position by Norway’s powerful fish-farm industry after she wrote about high levels of toxins in farm fish.
The message sent by Bethune’s experience at the hands of Norway’s fish farm industry was not lost on the rest of Norway’s scientific community. When I was in Norway, scientists were very reluctant to talk with me, and journalists told me scientists feared losing crucial research grants if they challenged industrial aquaculture, Norway’s second-biggest industry after oil and gas.
Bethune’s analysis of the test results paints a troubling picture of a yellowtail kingfish rife with toxins.
One official U.S. government serving of eight ounces of Nordic’s yellowtail kingfish exceeds the European Union maximum mercury allowance for two days – for all food intake, for two days. According to the World Health Organization, mercury is “toxic to the central and peripheral nervous system.”
For PCBs it’s even worse. One eight-ounce serving of yellowtail kingfish from Nordic’s Sashimi Royal fish farm exceeds the European Union’s maximum PCB allowance for a week – for all food intake for a week. According to the Mayo Clinic, “PCBs have been shown to cause adverse health effects, including potential cancers, and negative effects on the immune, nervous and endocrine systems.”
And for pregnant women it’s even worse than that. According to the Mayo Clinic, mercury “could harm your baby’s developing nervous system” and PCBs “can be transferred from a mother to her unborn baby, increasing the risk of preterm delivery and low birthweight.”
These test results portend even more problems for the salmon that would be produced in Nordic Aquafarms’ Belfast fish farm. Fat retains toxins more than other body parts – a higher fat content means higher toxin retention – and salmon is considerably fattier than yellowtail kingfish. According to livestrong.com
, yellowtail has a fat content of 7%. And according to Kurt Oddekalv, Norway’s most prominent environmental activist, wild salmon has a fat content of 7-14% and farm salmon’s fat content runs 14-24%.
And the problems don’t end there. Fish with high toxin content produce fish feces with high toxin content. And even with its elaborate effluent discharge processing system, fish-feces residue from Nordic’s proposed Belfast operation would make its way into Belfast Bay and surrounding waters, where pollution has already closed thousands of acres to shellfish harvesting, and where dredging for Nordic’s effluent discharge pipe would churn up and disperse even more mercury.
According to Are Nylund, an aquaculture expert and 30-year professor of marine science at Norway’s University of Bergen – and according to Nordic itself – Nordic’s multi-layered discharge treatment system will not filter out all contaminants, and if Nordic’s industrial fish-farm operation is approved and built, don’t expect shellfish harvesting to resume in Belfast Bay anytime soon.
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