Expert raises concern over health hazards of farmed fish
Fish remains the cheapest source of good protein in the diet of a greater population of Nigerians, and its quality, in terms of nutritional value is impressive because of its rich display of amino acids.
Of greater impact is affordability, as it is cheaper than beef, pork and other meat sources. In developing countries, including Nigeria, about 60 per cent of the protein requirement comes from fish.
Despite this, available statistics on fish production and supply have shown a consistent shortfall. No wonder, fish-farming business is on the rise, as more people tend to embrace what is turning to a lucrative venture, to meet national demand and address the consistent shortfall.
But as the supply is growing, experts are raising concerns on possible health implications of consuming farmed fish, as they are said to aid spread of diseases.
The Managing Director of Health n’ Healthy Specialty Bakery & Café, Abuja, Peace Ugbajah, said though farmed fish contains more overall fat than fish in wild (natural habitat), due to its grain-based diet, but they tend to contain more contaminants.
According to her, because they are fed with processed pellets, which often times are processed from other small fishes, they are major cause of health issues such as memory problems or cancer. “Oftentimes, the materials used in making fish pellets are usually caught around polluted waters. Some of these water sources are near industrial areas that are oftentimes contaminated with chemicals. This means that homegrown fishes tend to have higher levels of chemical contaminants, which may lead to health issues. The healthy way to eat fish is to properly cook it, and sometimes by removing the skin.
“Homegrown fish are given antibiotics to ward off any infection that results from crowded conditions. This in turn is affecting humans as large consumption of these antibiotic filled fish and meat affect the way the body reacts to antibiotics. Diseases in human body are becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment. Also, Polybrominated Diphenyl, a chemical used as a flame retardant is high in levels in homegrown fish. PBDEs are endocrine disruptors that are thought to contribute to cancer.”
Comparing the nutritional value of homegrown fishes and those bred in natural habitats, she said the former have more fats, because they move less and eat more regularly than what they would do in the wild.
“When it comes to taste, people often say that natural habitats fish taste better because they absorb different compounds from the environment as compared to homegrown, which some people say has less taste. If you eat fish, you are probably interested in the content of omega-3 fatty acids.
“These compounds are essential to the integrity of the cells’ membranes. Because farmers can control the diets of these fishes, they can decide on using best feeds that can be converted into omega 3 fatty acids, which is one health benefit of eating fish. However, there is no way for individuals to measure the amount of omega 3s in a fish. According to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, farmed fish such as tilapia and catfish contain two or three times fewer Omega-3’s even though it contains more overall fat than wild, due to its grain-based diet,” Ugbaja said.