Organic? salmon and omega-3

December 6, 2007

Do organic and non-organic salmon have similar omega fatty acid profiles?

The labeling of fish as “organic” is controversial since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not yet allowed for its organic seal to be used on fish. As of early 2007, it has not even come up with a standard that could be used as a basis for certification of fish as organic. Precisely because there is no USDA organics standard for fish, it is also impossible for the USDA to regulate organic labeling claims on fish imported into the U.S. from other countries.

At present, all fish labeled as organic in the United States are imported from other countries. In other countries, organic standards may be significantly different than U.S. standards. For example, fish labeled organic in other countries may carry residues of compounds and drugs that are prohibited in existing U.S. standards for other (non-fish) foods. When purchasing imported fish labeled organic, it is also important not to assume that the fish has either been wild-caught or farm-raised unless this characteristic of the fish is clearly reported on the packaging label.

Regardless of the organic versus non-organic issue, we do know that the fatty acid content of salmon can vary dramatically depending on foods eaten by the salmon. (This relationship between the fatty acid content of an animal food and the fatty acid content of its feed exists for all animal foods. The omega-3 fatty acid content of hen’s eggs, for example, can be significantly increased by incorporating flax meal into their daily diet.) In the USDA SRS18 foods database, you’ll find more similarities than differences between the omega-3 fatty acid content of wild caught versus farmed salmon. Fatty acid composition, however, is not the primary reason we favor purchase of wild caught over farmed salmon. The primary reason involves increased risk of toxicity associated with farming practices. Source: The George Mateljan Foundation,


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