Danger: Salmon, a toxic luxury

Danger: Salmon, a toxic luxury

Farmers use antibiotics in fish to control disease, but excessive use can develop 'superbugs' capable of triggering incurable infections.

Chile has the second largest salmon industry in the world, only behind Norway. The fish are reproduced in hatcheries in the south of the country, where decades ago they were artificially introduced. There, the salmon are fed antibiotics to prevent them from contracting diseases such as Piscirickettsia salmonis, caused by some types of bacteria.

In 2015, 557.2 tons of drugs were used in a production of 846,163 tons, according to the Chilean National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service. This is the amount necessary to be able to control pathologies, they say from the industry.

However, the antibiotics used by Chilean salmon farming have an impact on the health of consumers. “The problem is not so much the antibiotic, but the effect it has on the bacteria. Ingestion after ingestion, the bacteria that are tried to fight with these substances generates a chain of resistance. Which can lead to what we call 'extremely resistant bacteria'. Then, people who eat these animals are exposed to these types of bacteria. This is the real risk, that the bacteria generate infections that are impossible to cure, ”infection specialist Fabio Grill, who works at the Maciel public hospital in Montevideo (Uruguay), explained to Sputnik.

According to the doctor, the use of antibiotics is not limited to salmon. This is a problem that affects the entire meat food industry. And he added that the antibiotics used in this sector are the most dangerous. Not so much because of its differences with those used in the field of medicine, but because being in a sphere where medicine has less access, the task of making people aware of the dangers they run when they consume these foods becomes a lot more complex.

The clinical sector is not the only one in which this issue raises concerns. Restaurants serving Chilean salmon dishes also face a dilemma.

“When I talk about this subject, I do it from my two roles, that of cook and that of owner. As a chef I have to tell you that this is poison and I don't like to put it on my tables. I have it on the menu because it is what my guests ask for, but I never recommend it. But people, when they talk about fish, they talk about salmon. It is what is installed. Now, as the owner, I tell you that here [in Uruguay] it is an authorized food. Food science regulations do not prevent its commercialization. Uruguay is a country that only buys Chilean salmon. I worked at the Hotel Conrad in Punta del Este and even there you don't buy Norwegian salmon, ”Jorge Medina, owner and chef of the Casa de Amigos restaurant, in Montevideo's Old City, told Sputnik.

“There is no cooking method to treat the meat and remove the toxicity. The antibiotics that they give these fish since they were children penetrate their meat, bones and skin. There is no way. But, as long as bromatology does not regulate anything, we are all going to continue selling it. It makes me very sad, but that's the way it is. The economic criterion governs ”, added the experienced chef.

The truth is that, in 2015, the Chilean collection for the export of this fish exceeded 3,000 million dollars. For this reason, Chilean society and the food industry in general are at a crossroads with a difficult solution: dismantling an industry that generates millions in foreign currency and innumerable jobs to prevent diseases at a global level or continuing the path traveled here that health is subject to economic benefit.

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