Listeria hysteria, and once again Alexandra Morton doesn’t know what she is talking about

Her friend and fellow anti-salmon farming protester Don Staniford, who “will twist facts to conform to his own personal view,” suffers from “closed-mindedness and deep prejudices” making him “an unreliable reporter of facts,” according to a BC Supreme Court judge, posted this. Morton responded.


Oh dear.

See, the thing is, listeria is one of the most common bacteria on the planet. It’s in everything. Dirt. Water. Fruit. Vegetables. Meat. On your hands right now, probably.

It’s usually harmless.

But under the right conditions, it can grow and reproduce at levels that can cause harm to human beings.

Hypocritically, Staniford and Morton love to focus on reports of listeria in farmed salmon products, while ignoring the fact that many other kinds of food products have had to be recalled because of listeria outbreaks.

The worst foodborne illness outbreak in the USA was because of listeria. Sadly, 30 people died and made 146 people very sick.

Where’s the “Boycott Farmed Cantaloupes” campaign?

And it was because of cantaloupes.The FDA investigation found that the bacteria could have come from a dump truck used to take culled melons to a cattle farm, and that it may have grown because the cantaloupes were not precooled to remove field heat before being put into cold storage.

Listeria is everywhere, but it only becomes a problem in our modern food supply system because of human error or oversight. It does not, as Morton claims, fester in farmed salmon throughout their lives to be passed on to the public. This is nonsense with no basis in fact.

To prevent the growth of listeria and other bacteria, as soon as farmed salmon is harvested it is put on ice in a boat hold. This temperature is maintained all the way to the processing plant, where it taken out of the boat, again kept on ice, and taken into the plant which is kept at a constant cold temperature. The processed fish are packed in ice, and taken to market in refrigerator trucks. The temperature is kept consistently cold enough to prevent any bacteria growth from the time the fish are caught to the time they are delivered to customers.

And customers who take that salmon to make products such as smoked salmon or gravlax or other ready-to-eat products must follow strict guidelines to test for listeria and ensure levels are low and safe.

Anytime there’s news of a recall it’s because there was a breakdown in the system somewhere. Not, because as Ms. Morton suggests, because “the little guys get in and go wild” and “there are no natural methods for removing the sick and contagious out of the population.”

Just in case her argument actually makes sense to anybody, consider this.

Were cavemen healthier than people today? Back in the day when they were “wild” and roaming free and there were “natural methods for removing the sick and contagious out of the population?” Were they healthier then compared to today, where people are “domesticated” and living in cities?

Back then, humans were lucky to make it to 30 years old. Then we got smart and developed agriculture. Then we got smarter and started figuring out what all the diseases were that were killing us, and fought back with medicine. Today, thanks to a consistent, nutritious food supply, and modern medicine, the average lifespan in Canada is 77 for men and 83 for women.

We apply those same smarts to farming animals. No farmer wants his animals to get sick and die. It’s in the farmer’s best interests to keep his animals healthy, happy and alive.

Morton does not seem to understand this, just like she does not seem to understand listeria, either.


11 thoughts on “Listeria hysteria, and once again Alexandra Morton doesn’t know what she is talking about”

  1. Just as the BC Liberals have learned to do: lie lie lie, deny deny deny! Why do we have Norwegian companies raising Atlantic salmon in Pacific ocean waters? Why don’t the US have more salmon farms? Why do the Irish, Scots and Norwegians have trouble with infectious salmon disease just as the Chilean fish farms have in the past? Time to get your head out of the sand and look at ALL the scientific data. Or maybe, your heads are buried in too much fish feces to have a clear picture.

    1. Do you have any response to our post? Clearly Alexandra Morton does not know what she is talking about when it comes to listeria. Why would you believe what she says about other things?

  2. The East and West coast of Scotland show statistically no difference in the levels of returning salmon. In fact some west coast rivers have been posting record returns over the last couple of years, but the anglers groups don’t want to publish in case it interferes with their ‘all salmon farming is evil’ diatribe. They are also trying to get salmon netting banned despite the fact that they kill considerably more wild salmon every year than the netsmen do. A recent study suggested just a 6% mortality in smolts going to sea due to sealice.

  3. Dr Ms. salmonfarmscience.

    The reason humans are living longer is medical advancements, not a more more nutritious food supply as you suggest. The medical advancements that apply to humans do indeed apply to your net pen operations, if you didn’t fill the fish with antibiotics and delousing poisons and more…. they could not survive to market size. Farmed Salmon are not healthy, or happy and far too often in ocean conditions not very alive from disease.

    Shame on you for suggesting that farmed fish is healthy for us. Your business models require drastic change, especially where wild salmon still exist. Until then, the world needs to boycott all farmed Salmon and Steelhead.

    1. You must not have read our post, because we clearly pointed out that medical advances are a huge part of helping people live longer, along with a nutritious and consistent food supply.

      If you think farmed fish are full of antibiotics and delousing poisons, you should perhaps do a bit more research. Antibiotics and delousing treatments are used only rarely, and like all farmed livestock, farmed salmon have to undergo a “Waiting Period” after treatment before they can be harvested to make sure there no traces of these compounds in their systems.

      And like any other farmer, it is in the salmon farmer’s best interest to make sure his stock is healthy. The best and cheapest way to do this is through good animal husbandry, good living conditions and good food. Antibiotics are expensive and only used as a last resort.

      Perhaps you should tour a farm for yourself to see this, since you clearly have made a lot of assumptions that are not based on any first-hand experience.

      And we will proudly continue to say that farmed fish are healthy for humans. Farmers know exactly what goes into feeding them, how they are raised, how they are harvested and how they are processed and can make sure the fish are healthy and safe every step of the way. We don’t raise and sell unhealthy fish, that would be a terrible business model.

      1. Dear Ms salmonfarmscience

        You’re assuming that I have never been on, worked on, or constructed salmon feed lots. That’s an erroneous assumption.

        In the early 80’s I was living in Sechelt when the first Norwegian salmon farmers came to the BC coast. It was the end of the worst recession in BC history, we needed jobs and we needed investment.

        Fish farming seemed like such a noble idea back then, oh my how times have changed. In those days there was more local investment then today’s multinationals. A very few benefited, but many really good people lost their shirts.

        The salmon farms started in Sechelt, Salmon and Narrows Inlets. These are not small waters, first there was one or two and then the farms exploded, at the end I believe there were more than a dozen fish farms in these three inlets. One small problem existed, the Skookumchuck Rapids, it seems the 3 inlets did not flush very well.

        Algae blooms were not unheard of in the summer warmed inlets, after a few years the algae blooms started to get worse, much worse. Where I lived in Porpoise Bay, there were times in the late 80s when the bay looked like it was a sea of Automatic Transmission Oil, a sickly red color. As you might imagine, this isn’t good for salmon. The short of this is the fish started to die, and it wasn’t just a few, whole farms perished. At the end I remember tugs trying to pull net pens out of the way of these deadly algae blooms. It didn’t work..

        Something had changed what could it be? Soon after folks wondered about how much pollution was coming from the net pens. It became a poorly held secret that under the pens, especially the ones in shallow water it was a sewer meters deep. The chit did not disappear and it didn’t flush out of the inlets.

        This was not a good place for salmon farming. Many quit, some went broke. Others saw the light by the 90s and went after new leases up coast where not as many people watched and the water was “cleaner” and colder. Enter the 3 multinationals.

        To their credit some of the salmon farms at that time were trying native salmon, Chinook and Coho. They found them more prone to disease than the operators who were trying Atlantics. I recall a F&G club meeting where a now retired DFO fellow came to us and said this is a very bad idea bringing non–native salmonids into our waters. We didn’t listen well enough. This was also about the time the first Atlantic salmon eggs were introduced into BC. Could that possibly bring trouble?

        The bottom line is your industry is not sustainable, at least as it operates today. And for many more reasons than mentioned here. It’s the same story all over the globe wherever net pen salmon farmers operate. Especially where wild salmon still exist. Change your business models. It can be done, it just costs more. This is the only planet we have. Thankyou

      2. You seem to assume nothing has changed since the 1980s. A lot has. We didn’t even have an Internet back then. Now take a look at how much salmon farms have changed, too.

  4. Dr Ms. salmonfarmscience.

    The reason humans are living longer is medical advances, not more nutritious food as you suggest. Face it, its much healthier to eat wild salmon then the “stuff” net pen operations throw at us sometimes under the guise of “organic”.The medical advances apply to farm salmon as well, its the only way you can get crap product to market. Shame on you for suggesting farmed salmon is healthy and good for us.


  6. Don Staniford did the same scare tactic a little while ago with Salmonella. Listeria, like salmonella, is not a fish bacteria and it didn’t come from farmed salmon straight from ocean net pens. It more than likely came from the processing plant where the salmon came in contact with other food items in the same plant. Unfortunately, like you said, there are breakdowns in the system as with other food products (i.e. Maple Leaf and XL Foods). It is not the fault of ocean net pens. The unfortunate thing is that people like Staniford and Morton take advantage of what the public may not know. Thanks for trying to set the record straight anyway.

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