Recent years have seen a substantial increase in the popularity in the United States of inexpensive, imported seafood. Some of the highest-selling fish in the United States are farmed tilapia, basa, and swai. Although their low prices at first glance can make these fish seem like good bargains, it’s not that easy. While Norwegian smoked salmon is known for its top quality, some other types of imported fish, such as tilapia, basa, and swai, are not as safe as you would think.
Why not eat TILAPIA, BASA, and SWAIA?
With tilapia, basa, and swai, the biggest problem is how they are made. All freshwater fish include farmed tilapia, basa, and swai. In freshwater bodies around the globe, tilapia fish varieties can be found. Basa and Swai, on the other hand, are found in Vietnam’s Mekong River.
Where are the Tilapia fish coming from?
For these fish, the wild-caught industries are very small and are mainly used at their point of origin for local markets. As a consequence, most of the tilapia, basa, and swai exported come from commercial farming in South East Asia, mainly from countries such as China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The explanation why Tilapia is bad for you
Low contaminant level
Tilapia, basa, and swai are typically mass-produced in crowded aquaculture tanks and, if they are fortunate, fed soy-based foods. These fish can eat any waste or toxins in the water, being bottom feeders and filter feeders, and I mean all. For this one, I’m going to let your imagination take over.
They are continuously fed antibiotics in order to keep the fish alive before harvest and thwart any disease that can kill the entire stock.
There is, of course, organic wild tilapia production in the U.S., but it consists of less than one percent of all tilapia fillets sold in the U.S. Until properly labelled as such, it is also almost impossible to identify U.S. wild-caught tilapia.
Bacteria that are toxic
A woman living in Bellevue, Washington, contracted Vibrio vulnificus from contact with fresh tilapia on November 10, 2016, which she bought from her local store. This bacterium is rare, but in filter-feeding fish, such as red tilapia, it can occur. If these bacteria come into contact with a wound or by ingestion, you will fall ill. The woman cut her hand when handling raw tilapia in this specific case.
This is a very severe infection which can cause symptoms such as vomiting, pain in the stomach, and diarrhoea. It doesn’t end there, however! Vibrio may cause flesh necrosis, giving it the nickname “flesh-eating bacteria.” These bacteria may also cause sepsis, along with necrosis. The combination of the two is very dangerous and can require the contaminated tissue or amputation to be removed and can even lead to death.
This infection is very rare, as mentioned earlier, but the question you should ask yourself is whether the risk is worth it. Flesh-eating bacteria are most frequently found in freshwater fish such as live tilapia and are very rarely found in saltwater fish. One of the very few exceptions to that rule is stingrays, which with the strike of their barbs can cause this infection.
However, there is one bright side to the production of tilapia. All processing plants that ultimately fillet and pack the fish have to be spotless in order to pass FDA inspection for U.S. imports. I have seen and been impressed with some of the production facilities and their sanitization procedures. Not only do they follow the letter to each rule, but they also take measures to sanitise their facilities
Let’s be frank, however. The cleanliness of the processing facilities just helps to prevent the condition from getting worse and does not make the fish any better after feeding the fish antibiotics throughout their lives.
Is it possible to eat TILAPIA?
Health-wise, seafood can be some of the best foods to add to your diet. It is a well-known fact that the risk of cancer and heart disease can be decreased by consuming salmon at least twice a week. But even with that evidence, there are serious outliers and clear reasons why you should not eat tilapia.
Let us start with China’s farm-raised tilapia. Tilapia dishes, when it comes to your wellbeing, are almost the complete opposite of salmon or sablefish.
Tilapia is filled with omega-6 fatty acids that we in our industrialised world already consume so much of. Excess omega-6 can cause and intensify inflammation so much that it makes bacon appear heart-healthy. Inflammation can contribute to heart disease for people suffering from asthma and arthritis and also exacerbate symptoms.
TILAPIA: Is it a genetically modified fish?
Although tilapia was originally found in the wild in the Middle East and Africa, much of the tilapia on the market today is mass grown in industrial fish farms. Several companies genetically modify the fish to produce more profitable fish that can be sent to the market in less time that are faster-growing, disease-resistant.
What does SPOTTED TILAPIA consume?
In the wild, spotted tilapia feed mainly on the various types of periphyton found attached to plants and rocks, as well as microorganisms and detritus that can be found in that region (a mixture of algae, cyanobateria, and microbes). Another source of food for spotted tilapia is phytoplankton (microscopic plants), particularly in rich, eutrophic habitats.
When found on aquatic plants, red belly tilapia can also consume invertebrates and even fish if they are dead or dying. In the first few months of their lives, the young fish even feed on crustaceans.
TILAPIA HAS TEETH?
Their teeth are built for optimal foraging and eating of these substances, because the tilapia originally fed on algae and aquatic plants in the wild. In general, both the teeth of the jaws and the teeth of the throat are very thin, and to be able to see them, you have to look closely.
What about Basa and Swai?
There are their own collection of issues with Swai and basa. They are actually iridescent sharks, also called pangasius. They are commonly found in smaller sizes and marketed at pet stores as aquarium fish. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however.
Large concentration of harmful contaminants
First of all, in aquaculture facilities, almost all of these fish are grown on the Mekong River. The Mekong River is one of the world’s most contaminated rivers, and there is little control on filtering the water used in these facilities. This can cause increased levels of heavy metals and polluted water toxins.
Hormones for growth and antibiotics
They are fed food pellets made from fish remains (often swai and basa remains) combined with soy and antibiotics. They are often handled much quicker with growth hormones to make them lucrative. Both fish are not fed anything similar to their natural food.
These fish are also related to several cases of food poisoning due to contamination from their point of origin. In the US or outside South East Asia, there is no development of such fish.
Why You Never Have to Eat Tilapia
The low prices of tilapia, basa, and swai (just $2 per lb.) attract a lot of people, particularly when money is tight, but don’t forget that your health can be harmed by eating these types of fish. Saving a few dollars today may cost you thousands tomorrow in medical bills.
Usually, we do not make clear suggestions and ask you to make your own decisions. But we strongly recommend that you do not eat these fish. Before touching tilapia, swai, or basa, we would rather eat a Big Mac. Think about your health the next time you are at the supermarket or dining out before your wallet. Do not eat tilapia, swai, or basa!
What are some tilapia alternatives?
We have had several questions from ex-tilapia, basa, and swai customers since the article was first published who wanted to know what we can recommend as an alternative to these fish. It is not really a simple question to address because tastes and preferences differ greatly. So we will discuss a few types of fish in this addendum to the main article that can be a healthier alternative to tila
All of the fish named below can only be found wild. However, some pre-packed varieties of these fish that were processed in China or elsewhere in South East Asia can be found. Always select fish that in Alaska or Canada have been captured and processed!
Pollock of Alaskan
Alaskan Pollock is the world’s most caught fish and a great alternative to tilapia. Every year, it is estimated that around three to four million tonnes of Alaskan Pollock are caught in the Pacific Ocean. Many people eat and don’t even know about Alaskan Pollock on a regular basis. Alaskan Pollock is often marketed as “white fish” in cafes and restaurants. It is the main ingredient in many fish.
A large amount of Alaskan Pollock, otherwise known as imitation crab, is ground up and used as the fish in surimi. Alaskan Pollock is undoubtedly the world’s most versatile fish, which is a major reason for its popularity. It has a very light flavour that allows it to be cooked in any way and using any method. This fish would be perfect for anyone who does not like fish with an intense fish
Cod from the Pacific
Another great choice is the Pacific Cod. This fish is very popular all over the world and is used in many different recipes, including the very popular fish and chips. Pacific Cod is the world’s second largest fishery and produces about 1.5 million to 2 million tonnes of fish worldwide every year.
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