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Fresh health concerns over farm-raised animals


Catfish... Farm-raised fishes have been found to have much higher levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals than wild ones  PHOTO:

Catfish… Farm-raised fishes have been found to have much higher levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals than wild ones PHOTO:

Report warns antibiotic resistant superbugs may claim more lives than cancer in 30 years time

SCIENTISTS have raised fresh warning that dosing livestock with antibiotics is putting human health at risk. They said farmers should thread with caution in their use of the drugs because bacteria are becoming immune to treatment.

In a report published Tuesday, they also cautioned that within 30 years antibiotic resistant superbugs would claim more lives than cancer.

Previous studies had raised questions about eating fishmeals. Farm-raised fishes have been found to have much higher levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals than wild ones.

Last week scientists announced the first patient in Europe had contracted a form of salmonella that cannot be treated. Similar bugs have been uncovered in China and one theory is that they are spreading via infected poultry or red meat.

Lord O’Neill, the economist who is leading an official review on the threat of resistant superbugs, told Daily Mail UK it was vital to cook all meat thoroughly.
“I don’t want to put a percentage on it but yes, there is a risk,” he said. “My advice to consumers is to make sure they cook meat properly.
“If you are going to choose to cook it as rare as possible, you have to be aware of where it’s coming from.”

He stressed however that the likelihood of catching an infection from meat was low.
Other routes of transmission come from the way meat is handled in factories and abattoirs or through drinking water contaminated by animal sewage.

Lord O’Neill added: “I find it staggering that in many countries most of the consumption of antibiotics is in animals, rather than humans. This creates a big resistance risk for everyone. We need to radically reduce global use of antibiotics and to do this we need world leaders to agree to an ambitious target to lower levels, along with restricting the use of antibiotics important to humans.”
“The overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major issue worldwide, and we are working closely with countries across the world to monitor it so that we can take action,” a government spokesman said
“The overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major issue worldwide, and we are working closely with countries across the world to monitor it so that we can take action,” a government spokesman said

He directly called for countries to introduce targets to cap the amount of antibiotics farmers can give animals. But this would reduce the supply of healthy meat – as there would be more sick animals – forcing prices up.

The report’s authors said in other countries this had forced some farms to close when they became unprofitable. Prices also rose sharply before returning to normal levels.

The study warns that if the threat is not tackled, within 30 years superbugs will claim more lives than the 160,000 toll lost annually to cancer in the United Kingdom (UK).

Other experts have warned that – if antibiotics no longer work – patients may soon routinely die from minor grazes, caesarean sections and hip replacements.

Nigel Gibbens, Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “This provides a compelling case that to tackle the global threat posed by antibiotic resistance we must prevent unnecessary use in animal production and minimise the incidence of disease that would necessitate the use of antibiotics.
“This will not only reduce the potential risk to humans but also the risk to animal health and welfare of the development of resistance in bugs that cause disease only in animals.”

A Government spokesman said: “If meat is handled and cooked properly, the risk of catching superbugs from it is very low.
“The overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major issue worldwide, and we are working closely with countries across the world to monitor it so that we can take action.
“We must all work together to preserve the antibiotics that we have if we are to save modern medicine as we know it.”
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has even warned the antibiotic crisis facing the world is worse than the threat of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the health benefits of oily fishes have again become the subject of growing debates. Fish dishes are now increasingly popular demand across the country. Hotels, restaurants, beer parlours now offer ‘point and kill’ (meaning make a choice from live fishes to be prepared at the spot), with spiced delicacies.

Many are going into fish farming with fishponds springing up at most backyards, and huge financial gains are associated with the business. Also, canned fish products are not doing badly in the market.

Fishes have been shown to be low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, which make them good substitutes for chicken and red meat. Fish is also a good source of protein, several vitamins, and minerals. Some types of fish – fatty, cold-water fish – such as salmon, mackerel, and herring are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s appear to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. They also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure.

Until now, oily fish, especially those from the wild have been linked with better heart health, eyesight, kidney function, and mental and psychological performance, among other health benefits.

It has been shown that one-third of the seafood Nigerians buy at the market and eat at restaurants now comes from fish farms. Nearly 70 per cent of salmon and shrimp are farmed, as are virtually all tilapia and most catfish and trout.

Many people wonder whether they should eat more fish because of the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids or limit fish because of the risk of toxins, such as mercury.

With mercury scares abound, many consumers feel they are making a healthier choice by choosing farm-raised fish over the wild-caught variety. Unfortunately, farm-raised fish have been found to have their own problems. While farm-raised fish may be convenient for consumers, not everyone is in favour of cultivated fish.

Researchers have raised fresh concerns over risks of eating farmed fishes. They said that eating more than one meal of farm-raised fish per month (depending on where it is from) may increase the risk of developing cancer in the future due to the increased levels of chemicals and antibiotics.

According to an earlier study, farm-raised fishes have been found to have much higher levels of Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, and other toxic cancer-causing chemicals than wild salmon.

There is little argument that PCBs are dangerous toxins. Used for years as coolants in transformers, their manufacturing was banned in the mid-1970s. Since then, the compounds have been linked to health problems from cancer to delayed child development.

Banning PCBs, however, did not solve the problem. The compounds leak into the environment and can take years to break down. In the sea, small organisms ingest PCB-laden sediment while feeding. Fish then eat these organisms, accumulating more PCBs in their bodies. People who eat those fish can start to accumulate PCBs.

A school of thought accuses some fish farmers of overusing drugs and chemicals to keep fish alive. They said: “(Consumers) do not know when they are buying fish that it is going to be farmed and they do not know that the fish contains large amounts of antibiotics, pesticides to kill sea lice and colorants to add the color to it.”

Experts said that antibiotics are widely used in the fish-farming industry because disease spreads quickly among fish in crowded unnatural conditions. They said if not properly controlled, antibiotic residue can remain in the flesh and be passed on to people who eat it. The FDA sets rules on antibiotic use, so that farmed fish are safe to eat.

In a study published in the journal Science in 2004, researchers discovered that farm-raised salmon had more dioxins and other chemicals like PCBs, which the United States Department of Health and Human Services has determined are carcinogens – than in wild salmon. Not just more, but 11 times more!

Another study published in a 2005 edition of the journal Nutrition found similar results, theirs showing PCBs were 10 times higher in farm-raised salmon than in wild salmon. The worst part of the contamination problem is it knows no boundaries.

Farm-raised salmon also have more antibiotics administered by weight than any other kind of livestock. In addition, farm raised salmon do not have the same omega 3:6 profile as wild salmon. Farm-raised fish contain considerably higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids.

In addition, some fish farmers are now being criticised for producing flabby and sloppy fish. The texture of this farmed fish is thought to be a result of adding fish oil to the salmon feed in order to increase the weight of the fish, especially salmon. The salmon farmer’s goal is to fatten the salmon quickly and make them heavier. This is accomplished by feeding them a high fat diet. A result of this diet, however, is that the texture of the fish meat becomes much softer in texture and consumers have noticed a difference.

The difference is very clear between farmed catfish and the one from the wild. The former produces more slimy substance from the mouth and respiratory organs than the latter. When you use wild catfish to cook it produces thicker oil with sweet aroma and taste. The colour is also different. The inside of farmed catfish is lighter in colour,” said Mama Basira, a fresh fish seller at Apple Junction Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos State.

Mama Basira said that her Pastor warned them to wash farmed fish with hot water before using it to cook and that it was not to be eaten more than once in a week.

Is there any nutritional difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish? Is one type better for me than the other?
According to nutritionists at the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), “From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts. Despite being much fatter, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
“Due to the feedlot conditions of aqua-farming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-coloured dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey colour. Aqua farming also raises a number of environmental concerns; the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95 per cent of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.”

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that: The fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high – 30-35 per cent by weight; Wild salmon have a 20 per cent higher protein content and a 20 per cent lower fat content than farm-raised salmon; and Farm-raised fish contain much higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats than wild fish.

It has been shown that omega-3 fatty acids, which are replete in fresh fishes like salmons, are beneficial for healthy people and those who may have or be at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about two preliminary studies-one in British Columbia and one in Great Britain-both of which showed farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon.

Scientists argue whether the benefits of heart-healthy salmon outweigh the PCB exposure. Others beg for a little perspective: Even more commonly consumed foods – butter and brown gravy among them – have at times tested higher for PCBs than farmed salmon.
“Would I base my eating practices on this study? No,” said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is concerned about the small sample size of the study – 10 fillets – and is attempting to get funding to test a much wider sampling of farmed fish.

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