Scotland's fish farmers insist their salmon is not a cancer risk


Alan Jamieson was surprisingly relaxed on the deck of his boat yesterday as he headed out of the harbour at Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, towards his 250,000 caged salmon.

As one of the few fishermen left working from the once-busy port, there was a hint of irritation in his voice as he defended his industry against warnings of the threat of cancer posed by farm salmon. Mr Jamieson said: "It's all scaremongering and doesn't do anybody any good."

He took a drag on his cigarette, then added:"I suppose I should give these up. They are far more likely to give me cancer than a fish."

Mr Jamieson, a manager for one of the biggest salmon-farming companies in Scotland, knows what goes into rearing and cultivating the fish, and he has no qualms about eating them.

Research from the US, published in the journal Science, has claimed that farmed salmon in Scotland and the Faroe Islands have the highest levels of carcinogenic dioxins in the world and warned against eating the fish more than three times a year.

PCB and dioxin levels in Scottish salmon werelower than the thresholds set by international watchdogs such as the European Union, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite this, anti-fish farm campaigners have called for an inquiry into whether the £900m a year industry is a health danger.

John Barrington, a quality manager for Scottish Sea Farms, said: "There is nothing new in these figures." His company employs more than 300 people at 44 sites in Scotland and produces about 10 per cent of the UK total.

"Wherever you go in the northern hemisphere there are dioxins. It is the legacy of our being an industrialised civilisation. The salmon industry in the country is very carefully controlled and monitored for these dioxins and the levels are well within any of the guidelines accepted by the Food Standards Agency and the World Health Organisation. We know our salmon are safe and by and large so do our customers."

But yesterday Scottish Quality Salmon (SQS), which produces 65 per cent of the country's farmed salmon,accused the American researchers from Indiana University of being "deliberately misleading". Dr John Webster, a technical consultant at SQS, said: "The levels that the study has revealed are minuscule. We're talking about measurements in parts per million-million. The beneficial effects of omega-three fatty acids found in the salmon far outweigh any negative effects these very, very low levels of contaminants might create."

According to the FSA, which yesterday urged people to continue to eat salmon, fish contributes only a small percentage of dioxins and PCBs from foods consumed in the UK. The FSA said that PCBs and dioxins can be found in all foods and even at the highest levels do not have an immediate effect on health. The greatest number of dioxins are in milk and dairy products, and meat contains about 27 per cent of toxins ingested in the average UK diet.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the FSA, said: "People should consume at least two portions of fish a week - one of which should be oily like salmon. There is good evidence that eating oily fish reduces the risk of death from recurrent heart attacks and that there is a similar effect in relation to first heart attacks. The known benefits of eating one portion of oily fish outweigh any possible risks."

Gilpin Bradley, the general manager of Wester Ross Salmon, Scotland's oldest salmon-farming business, described the report as "scaremongering" and "sensationalist". But he also predicted that the report would have a positive effect on salmon sales.

He said: "We welcome stories like this. They benefit us because it gives the industry the chance to show that there is not a danger," he said.

The celebrity chefs Nick Nairn and Gordon Ramsay said yesterday that they would not be dropping salmon from their menus and encouraged people to continue eating the fish. Nick Nairn said: "I am not worried about it, these levels have been accepted by the Food Standards Agency as acceptable."


Salmon: Farmed salmon contains PCBs and other dioxin-like contaminants linked to cancer

Tuna: Methylmercury found in tuna may affect the nervous system and cause blurred vision

Shark, marlin and swordfish: High levels of mercury are potential threats to developing brains and nervous systems of unborn or growing children. The Food Standards Agency recommends that pregnant women should avoid eating all three fish.

Trout: A source of dioxin-like contaminants linked to cancer.

Shellfish: Raw or partially cooked shellfish could be carriers of the Hepatitis A virus.

Oysters: Norwalk virus which causes nausea, dehydration, diarrhoea and abdominal pain can be found in raw oysters.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice