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Salmon All Safe to Eat, says Canadian Health Minister

Government of Canada Assures Public That Farmed and Wild Salmon Are Safe to Consume

August 18, 2004


Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan today reassured Canadians that both wild and farmed fish sold in Canada are safe to consume, despite recent media reports suggesting higher health risks associated with farmed fish.

A study published in the American journal Environmental Science and Technology on August 10 found on average higher levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are chemical fire retardants, in farmed salmon than in wild salmon.  The authors of the study concluded that frequent consumption of farmed salmon is more likely to boost exposure to PBDEs than wild salmon.

"Health Canada has been monitoring the levels of contaminants, such as PBDEs, PCBs and others, in many kinds of foods, including fish for many years," said Minister Dosanjh.  "Based on the information currently available, the levels of PBDEs detected in fish sold in Canada do not pose a risk to human health."

To date, there are no studies that link PBDE levels contained in food to any human health effects.  Previous studies conducted on experimental animals, which had shown adverse effects related to PBDEs, involved exposure to levels that were over a million times higher than what is currently found in foods, including fish.

Health Canada's scientists recently completed a comprehensive review on toxicological effects of PBDEs and are conducting a number of toxicological studies to better understand human health effects of PBDEs through various sources of exposure, including food.   Data currently available on exposure to PBDEs through food consumption in Canada concluded that levels found in food do not represent a health risk.

"I am concerned that recent media reports might lead Canadians to reduce their farmed salmon consumption out of health concerns," said Minister Regan. "I want to assure Canadians that the farmed salmon industry is carefully regulated by the Government of Canada for human health and environmental impacts.   Both the farmed salmon and wild salmon industries provide safe and extremely healthy products for Canadians."

Health Canada's food surveillance program was one of the first worldwide to include the monitoring of PBDEs in various food commodities.  Studies completed in 2004 on fish and seafood and the Total Diet Study concluded that intake of PBDEs in the Canadian diet does not represent a health risk.   Health Canada is taking part in an international effort to gather data and exchange information on exposure to PBDEs and their human health impact.  Salmon continues to be a safe and healthy food choice as part of a balanced diet comprised of a wide variety of healthy foods.   Salmon is also an important source of nutrients, particularly omega-3 fats, which have been shown to contribute to a healthy diet.

For more information on Fish and PBDEs, please see the Health Canada website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/cs-ipc/fr-ra/e_pbde_fish.html or the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/infocus/2004/20040817_e.htm.

Health Canada:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

Fisheries and Oceans Canada:  http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/

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