It’s the media’s job to provide context, but when it comes to reporting on farmed salmon, they fail miserably.
The latest example comes from Eastern Canada. While Canadian media was busy vilifying farmed salmon for possibly containing viruses which affect nothing but farmed salmon, they ignored reports showing that terrestrially-farmed meats routinely contain bacteria – the kinds of bacteria which, if the meat is processed and handled incorrectly, can be harmful to human health.
According to the National Antimicrobial Retail Monitoring System report, nearly a decade of research done by the US FDA and the Centre for Veterinary Medicine, your chances are very good for purchasing chicken, turkey, pork or beef containing E. coli, salmonella, enterococcus or campylobacter. Or perhaps all of the above.
It’s pretty much a given that, unless you are a vegan, in the past decade you have eaten meat containing these bacteria.
Should you worry? Should you declare your home a meat-free zone and go vegan?
If you want, but as we’ve pointed out before, the worst case of food-related illness in North America was from cantaloupes, which tragically killed 30 people. And other vegetables have been at the centre of food-related illnesses and deaths too, notably spinach. Vegetables often contain the same bacteria as meat, but like meat, they are usually present in such low quantities that they pose no health risks.
So if you’re a vegan, chances are good you’ve eaten these bacteria too, with no ill effects.
This sort of context is important in any discussion about the food we eat, be it salmon, chicken or spinach. But in the rush to “get it first” and “get people talking” the context is unfortunately the first thing the media cuts out in their reporting.
And because there’s a lot of money tied up in “demarketing” farmed salmon to boost wild salmon, there’s a lot of baloney out there about the healthiness of farmed salmon. Context is sorely needed to balance the nonsense, but most media are too lazy to do even basic investigative work to balance the claims of anti-salmon farming loudmouths.
The science speaks for itself. We are not aware of contaminated farmed salmon causing any deaths (unlike contaminated cantaloupes and spinach). In fact, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization recently published a comprehensive report showing that the health benefits of consuming oily fish (including farmed salmon) greatly outweigh any risks.
And overall, meat, seafood and veggies are safe. We live in an age where our food supply is the safest it’s ever been. There is no need to be fearful in the grocery store.
So media, enough with the scaremongering farmed salmon stories already. It’s time to show some responsibility and investigative skills and put the context back in your reporting.