Forgo Fish Flesh … and Food Poisoning

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Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products
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Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products
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Forgo Fish Flesh … and Food Poisoning

From People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
April 2012

Need another reason to leave fish off the menu? According to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75 percent of the sea animals Americans eat are imported, and imported fish flesh is a major cause of foodborne disease outbreaks. Nearly half of all outbreaks caused by imported food from 2005 to 2010 involved fish and other aquatic animals.

Sea animals—especially oysters—are notorious carriers of norovirus, which causes sudden vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. More than 20 million Americans fall ill with norovirus every year, and about 800 die, usually as a result of dehydration. Children and elderly people are especially at risk. Food inspectors have no way to detect norovirus, so stepping up to a seafood buffet is like playing Russian roulette with your health.

Foreign fish also likely contain extremely toxic chemicals. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests less than 2 percent of imported fish for chemicals, tests conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Industries in Alabama (one of only a handful of states testing imported fish) found banned chemicals such as chloramphenicol, nitrofurans, and malachite green in up to 50 percent of samples.

Eating "American" fish isn't any less risky. All fish—whether they were snagged from streams, yanked from the ocean depths, or raised by the thousands on cruel, crowded fish farms—absorb and store contaminants from the water in their flesh.

Mercury, a documented poison, is one of these many contaminants and can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults. Elevated mercury levels can lead to brain damage, memory loss, exhaustion, depression, joint pain, hair loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, and numbness in the hands and feet. Some studies suggest that mercury exposure can also cause vision loss and increase the risk of a heart attack.

If people eat fish, they are also probably ingesting other contaminants—including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), cadmium, lead, chromium, and arsenic—with every bite.

The effects of these types of toxins are even less fun than a nasty case of food poisoning: Birth defects, kidney damage, impaired mental functions, and cancer are just some of the conditions that toxins in fish flesh can contribute to. And like the flesh of all animals, fish meat contains artery-clogging cholesterol and waistline-expanding fat.



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