Industry reps fight back against Dr. Oz tilapia accusations

Published on
November 6, 2017

A major United States tilapia supplier, along with the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), defended tilapia aquaculture after The Dr. Oz Show raised safety concerns about the sector.

Mehmet Oz, the show's host, said in a episode of the Dr. Oz show last week that some farmed tilapia are raised  unsanitary conditions, including overcrowding and in tanks with poor water quality, KCCI Des Moines (Iowa) reported

Oz urged viewers not to buy tilapia from China or Southeast Asia. Instead, it should only be purchased from the United States, Peru, or Ecuador, where adequate standards are in place for fish farming, Oz said.

Oz’s statements are just one example of how “far from reality the narratives about seafood are,” Brian Wynn, president and CEO of Culver City, California-based Rubicon Resources, a seafood importer acquired by High Liner Foods earlier this year, told SeafoodSource. Rubicon primarily imports tilapia from Thailand.

“The vast majority of farmed tilapia from Southeast Asia is in open-water pens and is done in a clean, sustainable manner,” Wynn said. “Most of the tilapia imported into the U.S. is subject to extensive third-party audits, social welfare audits and specific supply chain audits with respect to cleanliness and the sustainability of the resource.”

Tilapia is a “safe, healthy fish,” said Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications for NFI.

However, “It’s questionable whether Dr. Oz’s advice is either safe or healthy,” Gibbons said.

“For years, the Dr. Oz show has provided poorly-sourced, non-science based information and advice to its viewers,” Gibbons said. “Oz himself has been derided by [U.S.] senators during hearings on Capitol Hill for saying things he knew were ‘not true.’”

Wynn echoed Gibbons' criticism of Oz.

“He has kind of marginalized himself. He has done enough things that people don’t think of him as a thought leader; he just likes to sling mud," Wynn said.

However, the seafood industry must do a better job of stressing the health benefits and safety of its supply, according to Wynn.

“The industry needs to be prouder of itself. People sling mud at this industry, and we need to stand up,” Wynn said. “The people opposing us are more vocal; often, we are not.”

Contributing Editor

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