Fishmeal and vegetable oil. (Photo: FIS)
IFFO letter to the Economist reveals the dangers of misreporting science
Friday, September 08, 2017, 20:50 (GMT + 9)
IFFO has sent a letter to the Economist in response to an article, which in its view makes 'very sweeping generalisations based on scientific paper that reports on a very small sample size.'
The letter reveals that the authors’ eagerness to attack the fish farming and fishmeal industry has unfortunately caused a lack of perspective and critical appraisal of the facts.
In IFFO's view, while antibiotic resistance is a real concern, the findings in the paper by Wang et al need further investigation, not least of all due to the reported presence of several antibiotics in fishmeal made from whole wild fish that would not have come into contact with antibiotics at any stage. Fishmeal samples are named as being from various countries of origin but were purchased locally in China with no guarantee of their purity or integrity. Given reports of adulteration of imported fishmeal in China, this is clearly a concern.
The organisation points out that only five samples of marine sediment were taken, with no control sample for comparison from elsewhere in the marine environment, an environment also impacted by human populations and agriculture.
It also stresses that the majority of fishmeal is made from small species of wild caught, whole fish for which there is no human consumption market, and it adds that while trimmings, offcuts and byproducts from fish processing are recycled into fishmeal, much of this material is also from wild caught fish so would also not come into contact with antibiotics. The remaining portion of byproducts from farmed fish could conceivably have had some contact with antibiotics but their use is strictly controlled and, as fish health management and vaccines improve, is reducing over time with some farming areas now antibiotic free for many years.
"There is good evidence to suggest that the use of fishmeal in fish feed is actually therapeutic, contributing to better gut health and immune systems, making farmed fish less likely to need treatment with antibiotics," the letter reads.
IFFO says that to write an opinion about a 5 million tonnes a year global fish farming industry that is making a significant contribution to global nutrition, we would urge seeking more evidence than this one study.
The organisation has written a detailed response to the study, read it here.
- IFFO response: antibiotic resistant genes found in fishmeal