This concerns a little known aspect of fish farming. Sensitive souls refrain.
Fish is good for you!
Fish is indeed an excellent source of protein and some species are very rich in omega-3 (fatty fish like salmon and mackerel from cold seas).
But depending to the origin of the fish you buy, you will find a lot more on your plate - and I’m not talking vitamins and nutrients here.
Most of us today are well aware of the possible presence of mercury and other toxins in fish, and how to avoid them. Cans of tuna in the US (and some restaurants) carry warnings telling pregnant women to limit their consumption
But this is only part of the story. Health authorities do not warn people about how major producers of fish, particularly China and other Asian countries, feed the fish they export to other countries. This is the fish sold in your supermarket. It is that you eat fresh or frozen.
Prepare to be shocked and disgusted
Let us first take the case of China. China is the largest exporter of tilapia, which is the best selling fish on the planet. Few people are even aware of the name, which actually applies to several white fish of the cichlid family. It is a component of many industrial fish dishes. Ten years ago, nobody had heard of it. Now everyone wants it because it does not have a fishy taste - especially hospitals and schools. Until as recently as 2004, salmon and rainbow trout were the most sold fish in the world. Today is tilapia.
Fish fed on excrement
Tilapia is an omnivorous grazer, feeding on phytoplankton, aquatic plants, small invertebrates and ... rubbish. I am not making this up. All this information is freely available with a little research on the internet.
And guess what kind of "litter" the ingenious Chinese producers are feeding the tilapia? Excrement.
Yes, unfortunately again, you read that right. How is this possible?
Chinese, fish farms, now feed pig excrement to fish and geese. Why? Because it's cheaper than food for fish. And farmed fish industry is so competitive that they are willing to use any means to reduce costs. With no consideration for the welfare of the fish ... or yours! Animal feces make fish sick and vulnerable to disease. Furthermore, this practice is not only dangerous for fish, but also for consumers, as the animal excrement used as fish food are often contaminated by microbes such as salmonella. And the breeding conditions of shrimp and scallops from Asia are generally equally deplorable. Unfortunatley the health authorities do nothing.
How to make sure you don’t eat contaminated fish?
The easiest way of course is to live near the coast and buy your own fish from people who have caught it at sea. It’s worth remembering that barely 50 years ago, hardly anyone regularly consumed fresh fish if they lived hundreds of kilometers from the sea. The only fish that was available was the traditional red herring, known since the beginning of time, a simple dried herring that was preserved by various methods by those who lived close to the sea. It turns out that this cheap fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the brain and cardiovascular system.
Unfortunately, its powerful odour offends the delicate nostrils of our contemporaries, so very few of us continue to eat it. Among the younger generation, most have never eaten smoked herring, at most only once in their lives. If you do not live near the sea, and if you do not like the herring, the only truly safe solution is to visit your fishmonger and buy wild fish. But then, beware of the bill!
The lesser evil is to buy frozen fish from Iceland, the North Atlantic and Alaska (at all costs avoid fish from Asian or Norwegian aquaculture!). Favour fish that is vacuum frozen, rather than just loose in a plastic bag. It will be more intact and less affected by frost.