Retailers stand by salmon as feared consumer backlash appears not to occur –

Retailers stand by salmon as feared consumer backlash appears not to occur Published:  11 January, 2004

SUPERMARKETS in Britain are standing by farmed salmon and downplaying the significance of controversial new US research into the presence of chemicals in one of Britain’s favourite foods.

Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose all issued statements laying out their confidence in the quality of salmon sold in the UK.

A US study last week suggested that the levels of PCBs and other chemicals were higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon.

The study was controversial because its authors then went on to suggest that consumers should avoid eating too much of the oily fish, which has proven health benefits.

A spokesman for Tesco however told The Daily Telegraph: “The study does not raise any new food safety concerns regarding farmed Scottish and imported salmon. The levels of dioxins and PCBs found are in line with those that have previously been found by the Food Standards Agency.”

The FSA’s chair, Sir John Krebs,last week staunchly defended the UK salmon industry and challenged the US researchers for failing to take into account the proven health benefits of the oils found in salmon when urging people to limit their consumption.

A spokesman for Waitrose told the paper that the dioxin levels found by its independent tests on its supplies of salmon were below the levels set by the EU and had been falling for the past couple of years.

Marks and Spencer issued a letter to customers stressing that it has already successfully reduced the level of chemicals in its fish over the past few years and is continuing with these efforts.

PCBs are found in many foods as a consequence of industrial pollution.

Celebrity chefs Nick Nairn and Gordon Ramsay both endorsed the quality of Scottish salmon. Nairn said the levels of chemicals found had been regarded as safe throughout the European Union.

Consumers interviewed by television reporters outside Scottish supermarkets emphasised their confidence in the Scottish product. One man said that he had been swayed in his view of salmon by the counter-arguments put forward by Scottish scientists and the FSA rather than the US study.

* Read Fish Farming Today’s February edition for a full analysis of the US research and its impact on the UK fish farming industry.