French salmon show kicks up a fuss

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A French documentary aired on national TV in France questioned the quality of Norwegian farmed salmon and suggested it could pose a health hazard. The show has prompted Norway’s fisheries minister to personally guarantee that the fish is safe to eat.

A fish farm off the Norwegian coast. PHOTO: Mattilsynet

France is Norway’s largest market for salmon exports, so the critical report on Norwegian salmon and food safety in general raised a flap in Norway this week. The TV program suggested that Norwegian farmed salmon (called oppdrettslaks in Norwegian) can be poisonous because of substances used to rid the fish of lice.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, whose family runs a fish farming business itself in northern Norway, felt compelled to not only speak with her French counterpart Bruno Le Maire but also to send him a written guarantee that Norwegian salmon is “completely safe” and that food and health authorities haven’t found any illegal or dangerous substances in the fish.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) went to the unusual step of issuing a written statement in English on its website titled “Farmed salmon is safe to eat,” (external link) and Norway’s seafood export council also made efforts to tackle the claims in the French TV show.

They’re all irritated over claims made by Kurt Oddekalv of environmental group Miljøvernforbund, who believes farmed salmon threatens Norway’s wild salmon because of the lice problem. It was a big problem last year, and Oddekalv has his supporters who worry that fish farming hasn’t been properly regulated and has grown too big.

Berg-Hansen claims that too many opponents of fish farming can’t document their claims, and that it’s easy to come forth with incorrect information. Her government colleague, Business and Trade Minister Trond Giske, told reporters in Oslo on Wednesday that he wasn’t worrying too much about the bad publicity.

“Our fishing industry operates in accordance with regulations,” Giske said. “One TV program isn’t changing anything.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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