Cancer fears in salmon may boost
sales of wild fish
By Stephanie Zimmerman
When Larry Boehlke shops for fish, he thinks about where
it came from.
Which is why Boehlke, a Chicago nurse, says he's going
to think twice about eating farm-raised salmon.
He's not the only one. Now that a high-profile study
has found higher levels of dioxins and other potentially
cancer-causing pollutants in farmed salmon, sellers of
wild salmon are hoping consumers opt for their product
"I prefer to buy the wild . . . but at the regular
stores, they don't have it," said Boehlke, 49, who
shopped at a supermarket fish counter Friday night in
River North. The farmed-fish study, Boehlke said, "would
make me very nervous about buying farm-raised."
The study, published Thursday in the journal Science,
included tests of 700 farm-raised salmon that were purchased
around the world. Salmon farmed in Northern Europe, especially
Scotland and the nearby Faroe Islands of Denmark, contained
the most pollutants, the study found. The salmon are fed
pellets made from contaminated fish.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, said
the levels of pollutants are still too low for serious
People in the wild-salmon industry are hoping consumers
who've gotten used to eating cheap, abundant, farm-raised
salmon will migrate over to the real thing -- king, sockeye
and coho salmon caught in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Lou Kheriaty, president of Pacific-Gourmet.com, which
sells wild salmon to restaurants and direct to the public,
said the study generated a lot of buzz. That, along with
fears about mad cow disease and eating beef, may make
more people want to eat wild salmon.
The farmed-salmon study, led by David Carpenter of the
University of Albany, N.Y., found that eating more than
a meal of farm-raised salmon per month, depending on its
country of origin, could slightly increase the risk of
getting cancer later in life.
However, not all wild salmon are the same, if recent
studies are any indication.
A University of Wisconsin test of wild coho and chinook
salmon from two tributaries of Lake Michigan found widespread
contamination of the fish with PBDE, another toxic chemical.
The average level of PBDE contamination was 80 parts per
billion -- among the highest reported in the world for
salmon in open waters, the study reported. Other tests
have found high levels of PCBs in Great Lakes salmon.