Our Purity Story
Japan Accident Updates: Click here for the reassuring results of our radiation tests
on Pacific seafood products, which show them to be very safe. You'll also learn why the Fukushima accident is unlikely to affect our seafood in the future.
Rest assured ... our wild fish and shellfish are exceptionally pure and safe.
Here's the story:
Vital Choice seafood is very low in mercury
All of our fish are free of hazardous levels of mercury, for two reasons:
- We feature species that are inherently low in mercury: salmon, sablefish, sardines, scallops, prawns, and crab.
- We offer only younger, smaller (therefore, minimal-mercury) members of predatory species (halibut and albacore tuna).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was very conservative in setting the legal limit for mercury at 1 ppm (parts per million), which is 10 times lower than the very lowest level associated with mercury poisoning.
The minuscule amounts of mercury in our fish fall well below, or very far below this conservative safety level.
Why is seafood so clearly safe, despite mercury?
The form of mercury found in fish (methylmercury) harms the nervous system and brain because it attaches to selenium in the body.
Every molecule of methylmercury you consume makes one molecule of selenium unavailable to antioxidant enzymes that protect your brain against free radicals, and require this essential mineral to function.
Yet, children and adults who consume far more fish than Americans do show no signs of harm from mercury. This is because almost all ocean fish contain more selenium than mercury.
Shark, whale meat, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel are the few exceptions to the near-universal rule that ocean fish have more selenium than mercury. (Note: Our Portuguese mackerel is a different species that has very little mercury and ample selenium.)
The two studies cited as evidence that seafood-rich diets might cause slight developmental harm involved children who ate lots of shark (New Zealand) or pilot whale (the Faroe Islands). Unsurprisingly, both shark and pilot whale contain much more mercury than selenium, and pilot whale is very high in PCBs and other industrial contaminants.
(To learn more about the major population studies that compared fish intake to child development and safety, see “FDA Analysis Supports More Fish for Moms and Kids”.)
We highly recommend the videos and brochures at Fish, Mercury, and Nutrition, which reflect the latest findings and feature the leading scientific experts on these subjects.
The excellent brochures found there include “What's the Story with Ocean Fish?” and “Selenium and Mercury: Fishing for Answers”.
We also recommend a summary by nutrition/health writer Chris Kresser, L.Ac, appropriately titled, “Is eating fish safe? A lot safer than not eating fish!”.
More data is needed on selenium/mercury ratios
Scientists who remain hesitant to adopt the Se-HBV measure as a reliable gauge to the safety of commercial fish species note that the ratio can vary within a species, depending on the catch location (Burger J et al. 2011).
That is likely true, and the lack of selenium/mercury data on some major commercial species must be remedied by testing samples from every species’ harvest regions, regularly.
That said, all of the available evidence – including lab studies and large population studies from diverse seafood-loving countries – supports the safety and child-development value of nearly all seafood.
How much fish is safe to eat?
The answer to that varies by species and consumer. You can consult the fish intake calculator at howmuchfish.com, which shows the amount of each species people can safely eat, based on US government mercury-intake guidelines.
If anything, the intake limits provided there are conservative, because they do not take into account the fact that almost all ocean fish contain far more selenium than mercury.
The organization behind howmuchfish.com, called the Center for Consumer Freedom, is funded in part by industry, but the fish-intake advice in its calculator directly reflect the limits set by official U.S. mercury-intake guidelines.
Note: The descriptive text that howmuchfish.com provides about farmed salmon says that wild and farmed salmon offer nearly identical nutritional profiles.
In reality, while wild and farmed salmon are equally high in omega-3s, farmed salmon is much higher in omega-6 fatty acids (due to its grain/soy-based diet), which tend to block absorption of omega-3s and exert pro-inflammatory effects in the body.
See "Farmed Salmon's Diet Yields Unhealthful Cardiovascular Effects" and the "Omega-3 / Omega-6 Balance" section of our News Archive.
Vital Choice seafood is very low in pollutants
As is the case with mercury, our fish are inherently low in PCBs and other “persistent organic pollutants” (e.g., pesticides, dioxins, furans, and organobromides), probably because Alaska has never been a significant production site for these chemicals.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are synthetic organic compounds that (unlike organic compounds from natural sources) resist chemical degradation and can “bioaccumulate” in in animals near the top of the ocean food chain, such as fish. They also accumulate in beef, pork, poultry, milk, and butter.
The species we sell are less likely to accumulate POPs, either because they are naturally short-lived and eat fairly low in the food chain (salmon, cod, sablefish, and shellfish) or because we pick only younger, smaller members of longer-lived species (halibut and tuna).
The traces of PCBs in wild salmon are so minuscule that, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, it is completely safe to enjoy these fish freely and frequently.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation monitors levels of PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants in Alaskan salmon and other commercial fish. As the agency reported in 2008, “Levels of PCBs measured in Alaska fish are far below those measured in fish from other parts of the world.”
Specifically, the levels of PCBs in wild Alaskan and Canadian salmon – one to 12 parts per billion – are 1,000 times lower than the safety limit of 2 parts per million set both by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. FDA. (To learn more, see our About PCBs page.)
The levels of dioxins and furans detected in wild Alaskan and Canadian salmon are very low, averaging less than three parts per trillion.
Likewise, wild Alaskan salmon and other wild Alaskan species are very low (0.1 to 0.5 parts per billion) in fire retardants (organobromides).
Our certified-pure Sockeye Salmon Oil
Thanks to the inherent purity of the source fish, our Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil contains no detectable mercury (<0.01 ppm) and minuscule traces of PCBs that are comparable to the traces found in standard, chemically refined fish oils.
To learn how our Salmon Oil is produced, click here.
The purity and potency of our Sockeye Salmon Oil are tested and certified by NSF International Antibiotics in farmed seafood
Most of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and much of it is farm-raised, with little oversight regarding use of antibiotic drugs or additives.
While the U.S. government has standards that should ban imports with high levels of antibiotics in seafood, there is essentially no enforcement. To learn more, see “Foreign Shrimp Farms Drive Health and Eco Dangers”.
EPA/FDA advice on mercury in fish and shellfish
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress
FDA Report on Mercury in Seafood Species
Alaska Division of Public Health
Results of two year study of Alaskan Seafood
EPA Mercury Update (PDF file)
PCB levels in common foods (chart)
Interpreting the 2005 CDC Biomonitoring Data for Dioxins