Safeway Restricts Chilean Salmon Amid ISA Scare


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 3, 2008

Retail chain Safeway has restricted its farmed salmon purchases from Chile due to ongoing problems with the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus that has rocked the country's aquaculture industry.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer, which operates 1,775 stores in the United States and Canada, is still buying salmon from areas that have not been hit by ISA, says company spokesman Brian Dowling, but is now looking to Canadian suppliers to fill the gap.

"We are restricting [purchasing] because of the ISA issue and the impact on the quality of our product," says Dowling. "We're monitoring the situation daily and keeping close touch with our vendor. We'll be looking for an opportunity downstream where we can resume purchasing [as usual]."

The retailer decided to curtail its purchases of Chilean salmon after the New York Times reported last week about the devastating effects ISA has had on production and the environmental impacts associated with salmon farming.

Salmon of the Americas, a trade association representing salmon producers in the United States, Canada and Chile, says the article was filled with inaccuracies, including the use of banned veterinary drugs.

"This malicious statement that hormones are used is false and serves to dissuade consumers from eating farmed salmon, the safest of all fish, according to a study requested by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published by the Institute of Medicine," SOTA said in a press release.

SOTA also contends that any administration of antibiotics is done under supervision of certified veterinarians and complies with government regulations, a process similar to what the cattle, pork and poultry industries employ.

"A zero-tolerance [policy] of antibiotics residue is mandatory in farmed salmon and all production is controlled before harvesting is permitted by the Chilean government as well as the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration," said SOTA. "It is patently false to state that consumers will be purchasing farmed salmon with any type of medicinal residue."

According to a Bloomberg story on Wednesday, Multiexport Foods SA, the world's sixth-largest salmon producer, lost 3.2 percent in Santiago trading after the Safeway news broke, the lowest level since its July 19 initial public offering.

Cesar Barros, president of SalmonChile, an association of the country's salmon producers, told reporters at the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit in Santiago that Chilean salmon complies with all U.S. safety standards.

Barros admitted that ISA may get worse before it gets better.

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