« March 2010 Table of Contents Pin It

Target's big move

February news includes omega-3 fatty-acid discussions

By April Forristall
March 01, 2010

There was no shortage of seafood industry coverage in the mainstream media over the last month, mostly due to the news that the United States' second-largest discount retailer had banned farmed sal-mon from its shelves.

Media outlets across the nation, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, Oregonian, LA Times and just about every print and TV media source in Alaska, covered Target's move. Environmental groups like Greenpeace and restaurants including Oceanaire applauded the decision in blogs.

February's seafood news also included headlines about omega-3 fatty acids. Blogger, nutritionist and personal trainer Lindsey Mathes was compelled to share the health benefits of omega-3s in a column in South Carolina's Gaston Gazette. But with the 
good comes the bad: She warned readers of the health dangers associated with farmed seafood.

"You need to know that, unless you buy fish raised in the wild, all other fish, considered 'farm-raised,' contain contaminants such as mercury, PCBs 
and dioxins."

Someone needs to tell Mathes and her readers that wild fish most certainly run the risk of containing both methylmercury and PCBs. But studies show that contaminant levels in both wild and farmed fish are so low that they do not pose a health risk to humans.

Target's announcement brought more discussion of the farmed-versus-wild debate, as well as seafood sustainability.

Food writer and ABC News correspondent Steve Dolinsky attended the annual Seafood Summit in Paris in early February to figure out the meaning of sustainable seafood. His "reporter's notebook" gave the industry insight from a layman's point of view into the complexity of how seafood achieves a sustainable label.

"Now I see why Target pulled the plug on farmed salmon. It's not that all of the salmon raised in open net pens is bad - although there has been evidence here showing that there are plenty of issues with farm-raised fish.

"So now I'm thinking, 'OK, so wild fish is probably the best way to go, at least when it comes to buying sustainably-raised product.' But then someone shoves a flyer in my hands, telling me that the wild sockeye salmon from Canada's Fraser River has been endangered for years, and that the Marine Stewardship Council is planning to certify the fishery there as sustainable anyway. I'm still not convinced farm-raised salmon is all that good for the environment. What I have learned here is that we, as consumers - and food professionals - need to be diligent and continue asking questions about the sources of our food. Who knew that shopping for fish could be so political?"

Numerous media outlets picked up on a study that found omega-3s slow the biological aging process. However, the majority of news sources that ran the story gave it a headline that could make readers think fish oil is the new Botox. TheMedGuru.com boasted, "Omega-3 fish-oil supplements prevent faster aging."

North Carolina's Huliq News called fish oil "the long lost fountain of youth," while the real issue is that omega-3s aid the recovery of heart disease patients. Sources like these need to be careful - while headlines such as those can get people's attention, they may lose it once they realize they're reading an article about health benefits and not beauty treatments.

A few other news outlets, including San Diego's North County Times, Reuters and Science Daily, delved deeper into the study. Instead of referring to the "anti-aging benefits," Science News said: "Robust omega-3 levels protect the ends of chromosomes from damage, which suggests a benefit against age-related diseases." The article also highlighted another recent study on the use of omega-3s in sepsis patients.

Featured Supplier

Company Category