2-lapia OR NOT Tilapia – That is the Question . . . and the value of “fresh” locally produced foods VS. Transnational Agri-food Conglomerates (TNACs)

By on May 13, 2013 with 1 Comment

Is Imported Farm-Raised Tilapia Tainted?

Tilapia is a mild white fish that is available year-round. It’s available whole, fresh, frozen, or even live in some Asian restaurants. It can also be found as fresh or frozen fillets. Tilapia is known as “izumidai” when prepared for sushi.

A few years back, a controversy was started about the quality of Tilapia fish meat that was being made available on the world market. Several articles circulated either stating the pros or cons revolving around this reported issue, with a range of evidence and supporting commentary.

The primary concern was in avoiding Tilapia fish meat that came from fisheries and farms in China. China is the world’s largest producer of farmed Tilapia and supplies approximately 40% of global production. Nearly 40% of this is exported to the U.S., mainly as frozen fish (Tilapia) fillets, which equates to about 80% of the frozen tilapia in the U.S. markets.

Consumer Note: (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium‘Farmed Tilapia (China) Seafood Watch Report’)

Tilapia can be farmed in either fresh or salt water. They are omnivores, feeding mainly on algae in the wild. Tilapia feed in Chinese farms is low in fishmeal and fish oil, and relies instead on crop-derived ingredients.

Chinese farms do discharge the water without relevant treatment, however, and there is evidence that some banned chemicals – including antibiotics and fungal treatments (nitrofurans and malachite green) – are still used in Chinese Tilapia production. However, in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2012 “Final Seafood Recommendation”, tilapia from China received only one red ranking for “chemical use” with a moderate final score of 5.34 (out of 0-10) – Therefore Chinese Tilapia is still rated a “Good Alternative” overall. Most Chinese Tilapia is farmed in ponds. Recent reductions in water use, achieved by only emptying the ponds at the time of each harvest, has also reduced discharge of effluent to the environment. Both of these factors were sufficient to raise this recommendation from its previous rating of “Avoid” to a “Good Alternative.”

The Dangers of Farm-raised Tilapia from China (New Jersey Newsroom)

Consumers need to be made more aware of the problems with eating tilapia that is imported from this world’s largest producer of the farm raised variety. Numerous environmental warnings about Chinese-raised tilapia from such groups as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch have put this fish on their “avoid’ list of seafoods, this despite the fact that the U.S. has increased it’s imports every year from 2005 on. Many of the farm raised tilapia are grown in the notoriously polluted areas of China’s Guangdong province.

Recently, the U.S. Agriculture Dept.’s Economic Research Service raised questions about Chinese safety standards for farm-raised fish. The report mentioned, “Fish are often raised in ponds where they feed on waste runoff from poultry and livestock”. It has also been noted that Chinese farmers save money on the cost of raising these fish by dumping animal wastes into the ponds which cause algae to grow and serve as their food source. And don’t forget all of the problems with many other products made in China- toys with lead and toothpastes found to contain diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical. Even more alarming is the usage of carbon monoxide which preserves the color of the fish and can make the fish appear fresher than it is! If you read the label of many brands (WalMart is one), the only two ingredients listed are “Tilapia” and Carbon Monoxide (To Retain Natural Color)”.


Tilapia is a fast-growing tropical species, native to Africa, but produced in more than 100 nations – surpassing any other farmed fish. It is the fourth most-consumed seafood in the United States after shrimp, tuna and salmon. Although it may be a popular alternative and a “white fish” that is relatively less expensive, other white fishes or tuna and salmon still rate much higher in nutritional value.

(New Jersey Newsroom article) – “From a nutritional standpoint, tilapia fails miserably when stacked against salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and other marine sources of the omega-3 oils which have been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, stroke, inflammation, and brain health. Tilapia’s flesh doesn’t contain any. And the reason? If the producers used sources of omega-3 enriched meal to feed the tilapia to make them more of a viable healthy food source, the price would increase and that unfortunately is one of the reasons why this fish has become an American dietary staple. So it always comes down to the idea of how much of a price do you pay for eating unhealthy foods to save some money in the long run.”

Imported Food We Eat and the Junk We Buy (article from: www.Fourwinds10.net)

One Reader stated: “I read several articles on Google about this, and even one that was defending the eating of talapia said to avoid the fish that came from China. Also, I had just returned home from buying an Albertson’s 4-day special of four bags of frozen talapia for the price of one. Sure enough, on the top of the bags, it read “farm raised”, and on the bottom in small print it said, “China”.”

Recently, The Montreal Gazette had an article by the Canadian Government on how Chinese feed the fish: They suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds, and the fish feed on chicken excrements.

If you search the internet about what the Chinese feed their fish, you’ll be alarmed; e.g., growth hormones, expired anti-biotic from humans. Be cautious about buying any type of fish or shellfish that comes from these countries: Vietnam , China , and the Philippines.

Lack of mandatory labeling (especially produce)? Watch out for packages which state “prepared for”, “packed by”, or “imported by”. The country of origin should be clearly shown on the item in the store. If the country of origin is not clearly marked, beware! If the item is produce, ask a store manager where it comes from.

‘Green Giant’ frozen vegetables are from China, and so are most of the ‘Europe’s Best’ brand – Others like: ‘Arctic Gardens’ and ‘Birdseye’ are not imported for example.

Do not buy the grocery store garlic unless it is clearly marked from the USA or Canada, the other stuff is grown in less favorable and even toxic conditions (including fecal bacteria). China is the largest producer of garlic in the world – The U.S. is next.

Buy only local honey – most honey is shipped in huge containers from China and re-packaged here.

In-season local “farmers’ markets” are THE BEST sources for produce and just keep a watchful eye on store-bought produce the rest of the year.


READ THE LABEL and EDUCATE YOURSELF – Whereas whole foods and fresh meats are always the best choices; if you can avoid food products made by the multinational commercial agricultural industry OR Transnational Agri-food Conglomerates (TNACs), you can avoid many of the artificial preservatives and “other” chemicals (that are deemed to be in “acceptable levels”) that these products may employ, in order to deliver foods to you “fresh” in the store (as well as any other contaminants that may “slip by” in foreign foods production).

There are also however, many good agricultural suppliers out there that maintain higher standards than others. Just do some research and use your own due diligence. If you are still not sure – resort to supporting your local farms and growers for truly fresh or organically grown produce and naturally raised meats. Otherwise, you can still “grow your own” in your home garden where possible.



Don’t forget to check out the ‘COOKING with CHRIST – COOKBOOK’

It has delicious recipes for fish and other seafood items, plus more great ideas for nutritious and healthy meals!


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Category: Nutri-NEWS

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