SOTA slams USA Today over farmed salmon color 'leaks'


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
February 18, 2009

Farmed salmon trade group Salmon of the Americas of Miami is taking on yet another major media outlet for what it says is misinformation and irresponsible reporting. This time the target is nationally distributed newspaper USA Today.

SOTA says that the newspaper's Jan. 23 article, "Something fishy? Counterfeit foods enter the U.S. market," contains false statements by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration employee.

The article said that farmed salmon gets its color from dyes added to fish feed pellets and then quoted FDA consumer safety officer Spring Randolph as saying the color can leak when cooked.

"When you cook it, the wild salmon retains its color, and in the aquaculture salmon, the color tends to leak out," said Randolph, who works for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"Randolph's claim is demonstrably false considering the vast information available on how farmed salmon attain their coloring," says SOTA spokesperson Laura McNaughton. "Any type of salmon, both farmed and wild, retains pigment in its flesh from carotenoids they consume when feeding. We're talking about a natural pigmentation that occurs through digestion, not a food dye and it can't leak."

McNaughton says that SOTA confronted USA Today Food Safety Editor Sue Kelly, who stood by the story because "salmon loses some of its color when cooked." McNaughton points out that all meats, fish and poultry change color when cooked.

Randolph, when contacted by SeaFood Business yesterday, said the comments she made to USA Today were anecdotal, referring to experiences she had cooking salmon in her own kitchen and that her findings were not based on any scientific research conducted on behalf of the FDA.

"I was speaking from a consumer's perspective," Randolph said. "I have no scientific information. The comments were not on FDA's behalf and we haven't done any major research on that issue."

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