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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.

Mercury matters, but most seafood is very beneficial

Concerns about mercury in fish rest on understandable concerns, given the element's known risks.

But the benefits of almost all ocean fish are proven to far outweigh the rare risk of harm.

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 appears to be because almost all ocean fish contain more selenium than mercury.

Shark, whale meat, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel are the few exceptions to this near-universal rule. (Our Portuguese "chub" mackerel is a different species, which has very little mercury, and ample selenium.)

The two studies cited as evidence that seafood-rich diets might cause developmental harm involved children who either ate lots of shark (New Zealand) or lots of pilot whale (Faroe Islands).
Both species contain much more mercury than selenium, while pilot whale is very high in PCBs and other manmade industrial contaminants. Despite those factors, the signs of developmental harm — certainly worthy of concern — were very subtle.

[Note: Some people may be more vulnerable to harm due to genetic variations in how efficiently people excrete methymercury. To date, there is no evidence that anyone needs to avoid the vast majority of ocean fish species that have more selenium than mercury.]

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. And see the joint EPA-FDA advisory for pregnant/nursing women and young children.

We highly recommend the Prairie Public Broadcasting documentary, "Fish, Mercury & Nutrition: The Net Effects", which conveys the latest findings and feature the leading scientific experts on these subjects.

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, except shark, whale, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.

How much fish is safe to eat?

The answer to that varies by species and consumer. You can consult the fish intake calculator at, 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, 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 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.

In 2014, the U.S. Government change their advice to children and pregnant women, from a focus on upper limits on seafood consumption, to minimum healthful amounts of seafood. For more on that change, see Feds Advise Kids and Pregnant Women to Eat More Fish.

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.

Related Links

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

Randy Hartnell