Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Whole Foods Responds to Colored Salmon Blog Entry
In other words, the fish would otherwise be gray because they don't eat food normal for them.
All farm-raised salmon species (salmon, Artic char, and trout) raised worldwide have either astaxanthin or canthaxanthin as ingredients added to their feed to achieve the familiar reddish/orange/pink color that these fish in the wild develop from eating the carotenoids found in their natural diet.
Yup, and such things are also extracted and used to dye all sorts of things. To dye: to add color that otherwise wouldn't be preseent.
Carotenoids are the group of plant pigments of which beta-carotene is also a member, so named because these pigments were first identified in carrots. There are more than 600 carotenoids found in nature, giving plants and animals
pigmentation in varying colors ranging from yellow to red.
In other words, the fish don't eat food normal for them and, if something wasn't added, customers would go, "Ewww."
Astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are the two carotenoids that wild salmon obtain by eating krill - small shrimp-like crustaceans that swim in the sea. As a result of eating krill, the pigmentation of the flesh of salmon and other salmonid species of fish is reddish/orange/pink. Without eating krill, their flesh would be grey, a color that consumers do not identify as indicative of a salmonid species.
Since farm-raised fish do not have free access to krill like their counterparts in the wild, astaxanthin and/or canthaxanthin are added to the feed of farm-raised fish (at the rate of approximately 2.5 ounces per ton) to emulate the reddish/orange/pink of wild salmonid fish.We're still holding at adding stuff to keep customers from going "Ewww."
These are not chemical dyes. The source of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin is man-made, a synthetic version developed according to the same kind of chemical synthesis process that produces the millions of vitamins that Americans consumeNow we're hitting the "Huh?" PR section. Not chemical dyes? Then how can it be a chemical synthesis process? What are you supposed to get from a chemical synthesis process? Fairy dust? Sorry, folks, but these are chemical and, because they dye the fish that red color, they are chemical dyes. Yes, vitamins are also chemicals. We need to ingest all sorts of chemicals - vitamins, minerals, proteins, and to on - to keep living. That they occur naturally is fine, but let's not pretend that the fish farms aren't artifically adding something to the fish food. And, to my eye at least, the use of the word "antioxidants" seems crafted to benefit from an association with good press about antioxidants in people to and to create an impression, without saying so, that this stuff is good for you. Of course, that would assume, after tinting the fish flesh, that the chemicals still act as antioxidants. Or we could stick with "enhance the immune response of fish" but go a few steps further. Why do the farmers need to enhance fish immune responses? Are the fish getting sick in the pens? Are they raised in a way to make them more succeptable to disease than in the wild? How would this compare to the routine use in farm animals of antibiotics, which could be said to have a similar benefit of enhancing immune responses. And does anyone even know the effect of antioxidants on fish? Why am I feeling the need for an antidepressant?
every day. For example, vitamin C that is sold as a dietary supplement is a chemical synthesis of the ascorbic acid that would be found naturally within various foods. Like other carotenoids, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are both
antioxidants and, therefore, can also help enhance the immune response of fish.
Both astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are safe ingredients. They are classified by the FDA in a category of color additives called "Exempt from Certification." The general public often refers to these as "natural" because they are not synthetic organic dyes. Other commonly used "natural" (or "exempt from certification") color additives include beta-carotene (e.g., carotenoids from sources such as carrots) and anthocyanins (red hued pigments from blueberries and cabbage). To be listed in this category, a color additive must be regarded as posing little or no threat to humans.
Do we really want to go to things that the FDA has classified at one time as safe, only to hope that it doesn't change its mind later? (I can think of a number of drugs once "safe" to sell that are now off the market.) And even if we hear "safe," does that mean that we should clean the plate? For example, not all of us are willing to knowingly eat genetically engineered foods, even if the FDA says that it's ok. Some of us are unwilling to consume dairy when the cows were treated with bovine growth hormone - much of which is called "recombinant" because it is genetically reengineered - even though the FDA said in 1990 that we don't need to worry. Yet there are still many critics and lots of people who don't want to ingest the material. I'm not saying that the fish food coloring supplements are of the same order - but then, has anyone studied them in this synthesized form? As for saying they're not synthetic organic dyes ... they are synthesized, so they're synthetic. They color the fish, so they're dyes. And I sure as heck hope that they're organic (technically meaning that they contain carbon).
Even forgetting all this, what about the fact that the practice will help make people think that the fish is something that it's not - wild. I've noticed over the last few years how salmon seemed to be getting redder. Once I thought it was a different variety of fish. Now I know it's just more dye. Oh, sorry, just more "Exempt from Certification" color additives...
[slightly updated 2/2/07 because, apparently, editing and rewriting never end]
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Whole Foods Sells colored Farm-Raised Salmon
Imagine my surprise recently when walking through a Whole Foods Market in western Massachusetts, looking at the fish, and noticing that the tags mentioned the presence of dye. Sure, it's nice to be told ahead of time, particularly when the dye can make you think you're getting the superior-tasting wild variety rather than farm breed, as some have pointed out.
The irony in this case are the Whole Foods product quality standards. Specifically they state, "We carry natural and organic products because we believe that food in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food available." They also add, "We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats." Go to the company's page about its seafood and you see this: "On any given day, you will find a stunning selection of both familiar and specialty fish and shellfish. From Alaska to Iceland, we offer the season's best, ranging from wild striped bass to soft shell crabs and wild Alaskan salmon."
Or less wild varieties. Maybe they think that dye from natural sources makes it ok. I had a brief email exchange with one of the company's PR people this morning, but haven't received a reply on my question about this since around 10 this morning. Ah, well, guess they're busy with other things.