Fish Radio
Antibiotics turn off US salmon buyers
July 24, 2015

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — Farmed salmon is awash with antibiotics. I’ll tell you more after this —

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Major U.S. food retailers are getting the message that more Americans want to know what they are eating. And it’s clear that consumers don’t want their foods tainted with hormones antibiotics.

That’s prompted CostCo, to turn away from farmed salmon from Chile – the world’s second largest producer – due to its record use of antibiotics to kill deadly bacteria in its net pens. According to Reuters, Chile increased use last year to 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics on production of nearly 900-thousand tons of salmon. That’s a 25 percent increase from 2013.

Costco – the number three U.S. retailer – used to buy 90 percent of the 600,000 pounds of salmon fillets it sells each week from Chile, accounting for nearly nine percent of Chilean exports to the United States. Costco now will buy 60 percent of its salmon from Norway, and 40 percent from Chile.

Norway is the world’s largest farmed salmon producer and uses far less antibiotics. Latest figures show Norway produced 1.3 million tons of salmon and used just over 2-thousand pounds of antibiotics.

Chile insists its salmon is safe and the substances are approved by food and drug regulators. But, the U.S. food industry has recently taken a tougher stance against antibiotics due to concerns that overuse diminishes effectiveness in fighting disease in humans.

CostCo is following the lead of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s which have phased out Chilean fish in favor of antibiotic free fish that’s caught in the wild. Target has gone further and eliminated farmed salmon from its shelves. And Wal-Mart is pressing all protein suppliers to reduce their use of antibiotics.

Meanwhile, Chilean aquaculture director Eugenio Zamorano said the industry will seek a vaccine to replace antibiotics and that “genetic improvements’ could also provide a solution.

Luckily, American salmon lovers can know what they are buying. By law, all salmon and other seafood on US grocery shelves must be labeled according to country of origin and whether it is farmed or wild.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.