Fish, mollusks and crustaceans are an important source of proteins, vitamins (A, B2, B3, B12 and D) and fatty acids. They also bring valuable minerals and trace elements such as phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iodine, magnesium, iron and copper to the diet.
In the wake of the “mad cow” crisis, many consumers turned to fish, sure that they had found a food uncontaminated by human intervention. They were also motivated by public health campaigns that for many years had recommended eating foods containing . However, it is not true that eating more fish offers only advantages. Instead it leads to more questions, particularly regarding the risks seafood can pose for certain sectors of the population.
Over the course of the last decades, hundreds of dangerous chemical substances have been regularly poured into the oceans. Some of the substances can last for a long time and enter the food chain. Fish can bioaccumulate pollutants. The concentration of contaminants varies depending on the position of the animal in the food chain. Predators concentrate toxins in their flesh, particularly in fats, and the older the animal, the more concentrated the toxins. This concentration at the top of the food chain is known as biomagnification.
, which can cause serious damage to the nervous system, is present in the flesh of the large marine predators commonly eaten by man, such as shark, tuna and swordfish.
Carcinogenic can also be found in the fatty tissue of certain types of fish.
Caution must also be taken with the products of intensive aquaculture, which makes ample use of disinfectants, and hormones. We should be particularly wary of farms located in countries with lax regulations and controls.
The more fish is processed, whether frozen, tinned, marinated, salted, smoked, dried or turned into surimi, the more likely the use of additives. Benzoic acid, sulfites, carbon dioxide, nitrates and other polyphosphates are used freely in preserved fish products.
The labels on the packages of smoked salmon now abundant in our supermarkets should be read carefully: Was the salmon smoked naturally, over wood, or does it contain liquid smoke (indicated on the label with the inoffensive term “smoke”)? This food flavoring is produced by burning wood chips or sawdust, condensing the smoke and then dissolving it in water.
Humectants, substances which help retain moisture, are particularly used in fresh and frozen fish, as are covering the fish with layers of ice, a way for water to be sold at the price of fish.
We should also be careful with fish that comes from far away: Often dab fillets, swordfish steaks or other fish imported from Asia have been preserved in suspect conditions and undergone a double freezing, which encourages the proliferation of potentially dangerous bacteria.
But there’s no need for paranoia: With the exception of children and pregnant women, the benefits of regular, moderate and diversified consumption of fish and shellfish would seem to greatly exceed the potential risks. There are plenty of other reasons not to open a tin of tuna every day!