andrew schneider investigates

April 6, 2008

No such thing as a wild salmon?

Filed under: FDA,Food - good, bad, weird,Food labeling — Andrew Schneider @ 13:43

Having a few hours to kill before some Sunday afternoon interviews, I checked out some of the local groceries to see what was happening with the tidbits I posted last week on the FDA’s latest recalls and other products labeled as troubling by health officials here and abroad.

Whole Foods was selling Italian buffalo mozzarella, one brand from California and the other from Italian water buffalo. The cheesemonger said she had nothing against the California version.

“But this,” she said, tenderly caressing the package of pearly white globs from the old country, “this is magic.”

I asked one of her colleagues if the “magic” variety came from the Italian grazing ground where criminal elements had allegedly dumped toxic waste, including dioxin.

“We checked with our importer, and she said it was pure and safe. The good stuff,” he told me.

About 60 feet away in the produce section, stood a large display of cantaloupe. More than 10 million of the sweet melons grown and packed in Honduras had been the subject of a large and expanding voluntary recall by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the agency, Washington was one of 15 states where people were sickened by salmonella infection.

But the lopes at Whole Food carried round stickers proclaiming that they were grown in Guatemala. Attached to the price tag was also a printed note the told shoppers “Not affected by recall.” Two other large chain stores I checked had lopes but there were no stickers affixed nor signs offering information on country of origin.

Be careful out there shoppers.

Having read a piece today from the Daily Green that said the “Chinook Salmon Collapse Worse Than It Seems” and that “Only 1 in 10 Wild Fish Is Truly Wild” I talked to a couple of fishmongers to check out the painful theory that government-imposed restrictions on salmon fishing may some day inflate the price of fresh wild King to $30 or $40 a pound.

A genuine fisherman I spoke to at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal told me that those prices will only happen in his dreams.

But his dreams may have come true.

About 200 yards away from where we were talking, at the Wild Salmon Seafood Market, fresh (never frozen) wild King salmon from Southeast Alaska was priced at $23.99. Metro Market was offering the same fish with the deep orange flesh for a buck more a pound and at Whole Foods the glorious King was selling for a penny less than $30 a pound.

Chinook salmon USGS photo

Getting back to The Daily Green’s report, it said the study, by University of California-Santa Cruz scientists and published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, found that just one in 10 Chinook salmon spawning in California rivers are actually wild salmon. The other 90 percent were raised in hatcheries.

Check out the story and you’ll see how fish scientists using CSI techniques, can identify which fish were born where.

One of several frightening aspects of the study was that the hatchery fish that humans have added to the water have masked the true decimation of the wild resource.

“The numbers from the study reflect the makeup of the Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River in 2002, a year when about 775,000 fish spawned there. This year, fewer than 60,000 are expected, meaning that � if the new science is valid � just 6,000 wild fish remain in the river that enjoys the West Coast’s largest salmon run,” the consumer blog reported.


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