October 23, 2008


Germany discovers suspected chemicals in Chilean salmon


German health authorities recently detected banned chemicals in Chilean farmed salmon, reported Ecoceanos News last week.


Germany's Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) recently tested 42 samples of Chilean-raised farmed salmon. BVL officials found traces of crystal violet, an anti-fungal chemical believed to have potentially carcinogenic properties in two of those samples. Crystal violet is not allowed in food exported to the EU. BVL investigators also found traces of abamectina, an anti-parasite drug that is also banned in Germany.


News of the substance violation comes as another setback for the Chilean farmed salmon industry that is in the midst of a major slowdown due to an ongoing outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA). A highly contagious virus, ISA can be lethal to salmon but does affect other fishes or humans.


The disease was first detected in Chilean waters in mid 2007. Since then, it has spread throughout the crowded waters of Region X and into Region XI, affecting more than 100 fish farms. Chile's ISA crisis have led to major retrenchments. SalmonChile, the industry's private producers association acknowledges that some 2,000 workers have been dismissed. Union leaders insist that many job have been lost.


This is not the first time Chilean salmon has failed foreign inspections. Last year, Chilean salmon was tested positive for malachite green, an anti-fungal drug that's banned in several countries and was outlawed in Chile in 2005, in Taiwan. Half a year earlier, Chilean salmon producers got into trouble when health officials in Great Britain found a shipment of Chilean salmon to contain crystal violet and on countless occasions between 2003-2004, Dutch authorities complained about the presence of malachite green in Chilean salmon, which at that point of time was banned in Western Europe but was not yet prohibited in Chile.


The BVL findings have prompted calls by the Chilean-based NGOs for more transparency over chemical use in the US$2.2 billion industry. Juan Carlos Cárdenas, who heads Ecoceanos said once again, salmon products coming from Chile are being scrutinized by consumers and European commercial chains and it just shows how weak the system is in controlling the indiscriminate and/or illegal use of chemicals in food production.


Ecoceanos and other groups claim that Chilean fish farmers use as much as 300 times more antibiotics than their Norwegian counterparts. Together, Chile and Norway produce approximately 80 percent of the world's farmed salmon.