Contaminants in Fish

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we eat two servings of fish a week due to their high vitamin D and heart-healthy omega-3 fat content. A lot of people are reluctant to eat fish though due to worries about contaminants such as mercury. Don’t let these worries hinder you from eating fish altogether; there are “safer” types of fish you can choose to eat! Fish is too good for our health to completely boycott it!

First of all, where do these contaminants come from?

The majority of water contaminants come from the dumping of industrial waste into lakes/rivers/oceans etc. Chemicals could also have been added to the fish pond to deal with fungal or bacterial infections.

How do fish become contaminated?

Well, what lives in these lakes/rivers/oceans where waste is being dumped? You guessed it – fish. Contaminants accumulate in the fatty tissues and flesh of the fish. Thus, the fattier the fish is, the more contaminated it will be.

I’ve heard a lot about mercury contamination in fish. Is this something to be worried about?

Mercury contamination of any kind for anyone is not good. However, women of childbearing years and children under the age of six years are particularly vulnerable. High levels of contamination can adversely affect the nervous system, which could result in damage to the brain, spinal cord and/or nerves.

These predatory fish accumulate high levels of mercury, and thus it is best to stay away from them:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna (fresh, frozen, canned, white albacore)
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Escolar

The following are safer choices when it comes to eating fish:

  • Anchovies
  • Char
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Atlantic Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Smelt
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna (Canned “light in water” – this has far less fat than regular tuna and less fat = less contamination!)
  • Lake Whitefish

What about other contaminants?

After the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan there was a lot of talk about unsafe fish products from Asia-way due to water contamination. However, an FDA associate notes that there have actually been problems with farmed fish products from China since 2001. This is a bit disturbing as China is the world’s biggest producer of seafood in the world, accounting for 70% of total production and 55% of fish exports! In 2012, approximately 30% of the United States’ fish imports were from China.

Another big problem are the regulations, or lack thereof, the Orient have on fish food. It has been discovered that many Chinese fish farms are feeding their fish animal feces, sometimes even directly suspending chicken cages over the fish pond. I don’t know about you but that makes me gag a little.

Makes you think twice about where your fish comes from now, doesn’t it?

My family used to buy “Highliner” fish products because we thought they were a safe, good company, but their products actually come from China, so no more “Highliner” for us! We now only buy fresh fish (after confirming its origin first)!

Do you know where your fish comes from?


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