Eat Free or Dye.......
Letter To The Attorney On Salmon Color Suit
Smith and Lowney
My name is Bill Waknitz. I'm a Research Fisheries Biologist with National Marine Fisheries Service. I work primarily with issues relating to ESA and salmon. I have some questions about your recent lawsuit
against local supermarket chains. I often receive calls after articles on salmon farming are in the news, and I'd like to have the answers on hand. I am also providing you with some information to correct a few misconceptions in your press release.
Your suit states that the SalmoFan is used by salmon farmers to program the final color of their product. In fact, the SalmoFan can be used only to grade the product after harvest. Given the multitude of factors involved in carotenoid deposition in salmon (species, size, water temperature, carotenoid level in the diet, amount of diet fed per day to name just a few,), it is impossible to pre-select final color to a particular shade on the SalmoFan. In fact, the SalmoFan carries no instructions for doing this. It turns out that grading color in farmed salmon is very much like the process used in grading color in wild Alaska
salmon. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute offers an "Alaska Salmon Buyer's Technical Kit", available from their web site. The kit includes color swatches for grading wild Alaska salmon. These color swatches are very similar to the color swatches on the SalmoFan. Therefore, the technology used by salmon farmers to grade their product after harvest is hardly new or unique.
Also, the flesh of farmed salmon would not be gray without carotenoid added to the diet. It would range from a color similar to farmed rainbow trout to a color similar to pink or chum salmon. (Uh....gray!)
Speaking of farmed rainbow trout, are you going to include them in your lawsuit? Some of the rainbow trout sold locally is fed diets containing the same carotenoid additive, canthaxanthin, found in salmon diets. I've had several calls on this already this morning.
Another caller asked me about the canthaxanthin routinely added to chicken feed to color their flesh and eggs. Since poultry diets are regulated by the same FDA rules as diets used in salmon farming, are you going to include chicken in you lawsuit? My caller said he looked at packages of chicken and cartons of eggs this morning, and none carried a label stating "color added". This caller also asked about smoked salmon, to which color is often added at the processing plant. I can recall buying some Alaska smoked salmon that was almost fluorescent in color. Will painted-on color in Alaska salmon products be part of your lawsuit? What about such products as imitation crab legs, which has Red Dye # ?? painted on during its journey down the conveyor belt.
I noticed that your web site stated that the USDA found that farmed Atlantic salmon had more fat than wild pink and chum salmon. What you didn't mention is that this same USDA report found that farmed Atlantic salmon had less fat than wild chinook and coho salmon. I should think you might want to correct this misconception before the court date. NMFS has recently published two reviews of salmon farming in the Pacific Northwest which examine many of the concerns expressed on your web site. They can be found on the list of pertinent web sites listed below. Also included below is a calculation I did last fall for Dr. Volpe concerning the amount of farmed salmon one must eat to ingest the same amount of anthaxanthin found to cause eye problems, which would be about 24 lbs per days for at least several weeks As you can see, it would be virtually impossible for a human to eat this much.
If I can provide you with more information, please contact me.
F. William Waknitz
Research Fisheries Biologist
National Marine Fisheries Service
P. O. Box 130
Manchester, WA 98353
206) 842-5435 ex 8322
Dear Dr. Bill:
I am a chef in California, recently fighting a battle over fresh farm fish being marketed as fresh wild Puget Sound fish. In December! It turns out there are no labeling or marketing laws forbidding this practice. Oh, well!!
From a strictly empirical analysis, it seems to me that farm fish are much more fatty than the wild fish we have available to us. In fact, one of the prized aspects of the wild Monterey king salmon was a somewhat dry, dark red flesh. The frozen filets from Oregon, Washington and Alaska that we are able to buy this time of year actually require special handling because of the lack of fat. We gently poach servings in 120 degree fat...either olive oil or duck fat to preserve tenderness and moisture.
I have no particular axe to grind one way or the other...my concerns are technical. Could you refer me to the USDA study, or other studies you site in your letter to the lawyers in the coloration lawsuit?
And, by the way.......at the hands on end of the food chain, we chefs are very concerned about coloration additives in all products......eggs, smoked salmon, surimi, farm fish.......I would support labeling for those products. I mean, why not? Our business balances on subtleties more delicate than dye, and we need all the help we can get.
There are crazy modern restaurants that use all manner of additives, mostly natural (squid ink-dyed yucca root with sea cucumber at Mugaritz in Spain comes to mind). The additives are on the menu, though. I just want to know, so I can decide for myself.
Please don't buy commercial flourescent smoked salmon. I would be happy to send you some of our wild, cold-smoked fish to help wean you away....
A Moveable Feast