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GE Salmon Company Fined Over Permit Problems in Panama

The government of Panama has revealed that, in July of this year, it levied a fine on AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company seeking government approval to bring the first genetically modified salmon to market in the U.S.

AquaBounty apparently did not have the necessary water use and water discharge permits necessary for running its operations in Panama, where it has a pilot facility, and total coliform bacteria were allegedly above acceptable levels.

The Panamanian government determined that the company had repeatedly violated regulations and should be issued the maximum allowable fine of $ 9,500.

AquaBounty says that company officials immediately contacted the proper authorities in Panama after becoming aware of the permitting failures, and that everything was squared away by August. The company also paid the fine.

“The nature of the violations had no bearing on the containment or health of our fish, or the safety of our operations,” the company said in a statement.

AquaBounty added that its facility is frequently inspected by the Panamanian government and continues to operate without any restrictions. In addition, it said that the company’s facility was built and operating before some of the permit regulations were passed.

In response to the violations and fine, U.S. consumer groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deny AquaBounty’s application to sell GE salmon in grocery stores here.

AquaBounty’s CEO Ron Stotish told Seafoodsource that those groups were being “blatantly misleading” by implying that there is a safety issue concerning the fish when there is none.

FDA is still reviewing AquaBounty’s application. The fish is an Atlantic salmon that contains genes from a Pacific Chinook salmon and an ocean pout that allow the fish to grow to market size twice as fast.

For years, FDA has declined to provide a timeline for when the agency might make its decision. AquaBounty says it began the FDA application process in 1995.

A 2010 FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine review of the AquaBounty application concluded that the salmon was as safe to eat as Atlantic salmon and does not pose a threat to the environment. According to AquaBounty, the salmon will only grow in land-based, contained facilities and that all the fish are sterile females.

Due to consumer demand, a number of U.S. grocery retailers, including Kroger, Safeway and Target, have already pledged not to sell the AquaBounty salmon should it be approved by FDA.

Food Safety News

GE Salmon Company Fined Over Permit Problems in Panama

The government of Panama has revealed that, in July of this year, it levied a fine on AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company seeking government approval to bring the first genetically modified salmon to market in the U.S.

AquaBounty apparently did not have the necessary water use and water discharge permits necessary for running its operations in Panama, where it has a pilot facility, and total coliform bacteria were allegedly above acceptable levels.

The Panamanian government determined that the company had repeatedly violated regulations and should be issued the maximum allowable fine of $ 9,500.

AquaBounty says that company officials immediately contacted the proper authorities in Panama after becoming aware of the permitting failures, and that everything was squared away by August. The company also paid the fine.

“The nature of the violations had no bearing on the containment or health of our fish, or the safety of our operations,” the company said in a statement.

AquaBounty added that its facility is frequently inspected by the Panamanian government and continues to operate without any restrictions. In addition, it said that the company’s facility was built and operating before some of the permit regulations were passed.

In response to the violations and fine, U.S. consumer groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deny AquaBounty’s application to sell GE salmon in grocery stores here.

AquaBounty’s CEO Ron Stotish told Seafoodsource that those groups were being “blatantly misleading” by implying that there is a safety issue concerning the fish when there is none.

FDA is still reviewing AquaBounty’s application. The fish is an Atlantic salmon that contains genes from a Pacific Chinook salmon and an ocean pout that allow the fish to grow to market size twice as fast.

For years, FDA has declined to provide a timeline for when the agency might make its decision. AquaBounty says it began the FDA application process in 1995.

A 2010 FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine review of the AquaBounty application concluded that the salmon was as safe to eat as Atlantic salmon and does not pose a threat to the environment. According to AquaBounty, the salmon will only grow in land-based, contained facilities and that all the fish are sterile females.

Due to consumer demand, a number of U.S. grocery retailers, including Kroger, Safeway and Target, have already pledged not to sell the AquaBounty salmon should it be approved by FDA.

Food Safety News

A slimy marine organism fit for biofuel and salmon feed

June 25, 2013 — It sounds too good to be true: a common marine species that consumes microorganisms and can be converted into much-needed feed for salmon or a combustible biofuel for filling petrol tanks. And it can be cultivated in vast amounts: 200 kg per square metre of ocean surface area.

Tunicates (ciona intestinalis) is the name of this unexpected source of such rich potential. The species is the starting point for a research-based innovation project being carried out by researchers and innovation specialists in Bergen. The idea was hatched by a group of researchers at the University of Bergen and Uni Research.

Produces cellulose and contains omega-3

The yellowish, slimy growth that many of us have come across on ropes that have lain in seawater is the marine organism known as tunicates.

Tunicates are basically living filter tubes that suck bacteria and other microorganisms into one end and excrete purified water out the other end. This is how tunicates feed — at the very bottom of the food chain and without competing directly with fish or other marine animals higher up in the chain. At the same time tunicates clean the fjords and coastal areas.

The fact that tunicates are also the only animals that produce cellulose — and that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids — makes them a potential alternative for bioethanol and as a feed ingredient for farmed fish.

Inhabiting all oceans

Tunicates grow very quickly and year-round. Found in every ocean, they particularly thrive in cold, nutrient-rich waters such as those around the quays and coastal rock slopes of Western Norway.

Since there are no marine predators feeding on tunicates, some 2 500 to 10 000 individuals can grow undisturbed in 1 m2 of ocean surface area.

Other than the Japanese and Koreans, who eat tunicates, no one has paid them much attention until now.

Similar to mussel cultivation

For the first time ever, tunicates are being cultivated experimentally at a pilot facility in Øygarden, a small island community near Bergen.

The production method resembles the cultivation of mussels. At a facility in a small finger of a fjord, long plastic sheets are anchored to the seabed and held vertical by buoys. Between these sheets flows seawater teeming with the microorganisms tunicates need.

The Research Council of Norway’s programme Commercialising R&D Results (FORNY2020) and the technology transfer office Bergen Teknologioverføring (BTO) are investing heavily to scale up tunicate production. Christofer Troedsson of the University of Bergen’s Department of Biology is the project manager. The project will run through 2014.

Those involved have known all along that the project is high-risk. But many of the risky components have now been tested, and it has been verified that they function as intended. And if all goes as planned, as it looks like it will, the results may be impressive.

From cellulose to bioethanol

The tunicate is the only animal known to produce cellulose, with which it constructs its body wall, called the mantle.

Breaking down cellulose yields sugars that can be used to produce the fuel bioethanol. Much of the world’s bioethanol currently comes from corn, a controversial source since this crop could be used to feed people instead.

One alternative being thoroughly researched is to produce bioethanol from the cellulose in forest-based biomass. But this is not unproblematic either, since the biopolymer lignin contained in wood is valuable in many other applications. Tunicate cellulose would be a less controversial source because it does not contain lignin.

Targeting fish feed based on marine ingredients

Even more attractive than biofuel production is the use of tunicates in feed for salmon and other farmed fish. Norway is the world’s largest producer of salmon feed, and there is a huge demand for more marine proteins as feed ingredients, but the limit has already been reached in industrialised fishing.

One major challenge facing feed producers is to produce salmon feed containing omega-3 fatty acids, which the fish need but do not generate. The bulk of omega-3 in salmon feed presently comes from the fisheries industry. Dried tunicates contain 60 per cent protein and are rich in omega-3. Perhaps just as importantly, salmon find them tasty as well.

So tunicates appear promising as a new feed ingredient.

Large-scale cultivation needed

Protein production from marine cultivation of tunicates has 100 times the potential per square metre than any land-based protein cultivation. Moreover, the food that tunicates need is readily available in the form of vast amounts of microorganisms in nutrient-rich marine waters.

So what is the hold-up?

“Our single greatest challenge is cultivating enough biomass per square metre to make operations profitable,” explains project manager Troedsson. “We anticipate a crop of 100 to 200 kilograms per square metre, which is an extremely high yield. But that is what is needed for profitability because the price per kilo is so low.”

The Bergen-based researchers have achieved this production target at their small-scale facility, and the mathematical models they have run make them optimistic that a similar production level is possible with large-scale tunicate farms. But there are no guarantees just yet.

Removing the water

“The second major challenge we face is how much water we can squeeze out of the tunicates,” continues Dr Troedsson. “Their body mass is 95 per cent water. To sell the product we have to be able to remove at least 90 per cent and preferably 95 per cent of that water by mechanical pressing.”

“On an isolated basis we have managed to mechanically press out 97 per cent of the water. Now we must try to carry out that process efficiently on board the harvesting boats, while at the same time pulling several tonnes of tunicates per hour out of the sea.”

“Thus production volume and water separation are the two critical factors that must be successfully addressed if tunicate cultivation is to be profitable for private companies in today’s market,” concludes Dr Troedsson.

The Research Council of Norway’s programme Commercialising R&D Results (FORNY2020) is allocating NOK 8.7 million in funding to the tunicate project through 2014.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Salmon, Goat Cheese Recalled in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recalled some salmon and some goat cheese over the weekend. The Ottawa-based food safety agency said that deadly botulism was a danger for the salmon and the toxin produced by Staphylococcus bacteria for the goat cheese.

House Candied and House Smoked Salmon produced under the Farquhar’s Orchards Fine Foods brand for all packed dates were recalled. Fromagerie Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac recalled its Moutier Ripened Firm Goat Cheese from the marketplace for various best-before dates from lots numbers 140781, 140782, and 141271.

More details on the salmon recall can be found here, and the goat cheese recall is here.

Food Safety News

Illinois Firm Recalls Smoked Salmon for Possible Listeria Contamination

Vita Food Products of Chicago, IL, has voluntarily recalled 1,878 pounds of Vita Classic Premium Sliced Smoked Atlantic Salmon for potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The product was sent to Hannaford grocery stores in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire; H-E-B grocery stores in Texas, and Publix grocery stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina beginning April 7, 2014.

A single lot of 4-oz. Vita Classic Premium Sliced Smoked Atlantic Salmon packages is the subject of this recall as the result of one package of salmon that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The packages are plastic film and vacuum sealed, black in color and bear the Vita logo centered at the bottom. Product from this lot can be identified by a SELL BY AUG 17 2014 date and lot number 00764B, which can be found on the right side on the front of the package. The 4-oz. size of this product is the only size subject to this recall.

Listeria is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. To date, no confirmed illnesses or complaints have been reported.

Any consumer who purchased the product with the sell-by date and lot number above should dispose of the product immediately and may request a refund by mailing the product label or a copy of the receipt to Vita Food Products Inc., Attn.: Customer Service, 2222 W. Lake St., Chicago, IL, 60612. Consumers may also call the company at (800) 989-VITA Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) with questions. If you have consumed the product and are experiencing any unusual or severe symptoms such as those described above, go to an emergency room immediately or contact your physician for immediate advice.

Food Safety News

Sequenced salmon genome: Scientific breakthrough from international collaboration

The International Cooperation to Sequence the Atlantic Salmon Genome (ICSASG) announced completion of a fully mapped and openly accessible salmon genome. This reference genome will provide crucial information to fish managers to improve the production and sustainability of aquaculture operations, and address challenges around conservation of wild stocks, preservation of at-risk fish populations and environmental sustainability. This breakthrough was announced at the International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology (ICISB) being held in Vancouver.

Salmonids are an important piece of the economic and social fabric of communities on BC’s coastline and many other countries including Norway and Chile. The fisheries and aquaculture sector is one of the economic engines of BC: seafood is the province’s largest agri-food export, contributing $ 870 million of the province’s total agri-food exports of $ 2.5 billion. High value species such as salmon make a significant economic contribution to the economy. Canada’s Atlantic salmon related aquaculture revenues exceed $ 600 million annually and BC is the only province with a commercial salmon fishery.

Salmonids are also a key species for research and while some salmon genetic information is known, many fundamental questions have remained: a fully assembled reference sequence available for researchers worldwide will have a major impact on revealing information about salmon and other salmonids, such as rainbow trout and Pacific salmon.

Viruses and pathogens are a challenging hazard to livelihoods and economies dependent on salmon and this sequence provides real support to improve the production of salmonids in a sustainable way. Other benefits of the salmon sequence include applications for food security and traceability and broodstock selection for commercially important traits. Healthier food, more environmentally sound fish farming and better interactions with wild salmon are all positive outcomes from this research.

“Knowledge of the whole genome makes it possible to see how genes interact with each other, and examine the exact gene that governs a certain trait such as resistance against a particular disease,” says Dr. Steinar Bergseth, Chair of the International Steering Committee for the ICSASG. “The development of vaccines and targeted treatment is much closer.”

The international collaboration involves researchers, funding bodies and industry from Canada, Chile and Norway. The successful completion of the salmon genome provides a basis for continued partnerships between these and other countries involved in research and industrial development of salmonids.

“A better scientific understanding of this species and its genome is a critical step towards improving the growth and management of global fisheries and aquaculture,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President & CEO of Genome BC. “Additionally, the level of international collaboration seen in this project is a testament to the importance of global coordination to address challenges too big for any one country individually.”

The aquaculture industries need to produce healthy food in a sustainable and efficient manner to be in line with the consumer demands. “The knowledge of the sequence will certainly give us a long awaited tool to achieve this” says Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director of Marine Harvest, Norway.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Genome BC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Milestone in salmon research: Genome fully sequenced

Fully sequencing the Atlantic salmon genome is a landmark achievement — and provides a wellspring of new opportunities for scientists and the aquaculture industry worldwide.

The detailed overview of the salmon’s genetic material provides the framework for new research and development that may solve many longstanding riddles.

“We now have the complete sequence of the Atlantic salmon genome, every letter and code.

This is a powerful tool for understanding the connection between the salmon’s genetic codes and its biology,” says Steinar Bergseth, Special Adviser at the Research Council of Norway.

As chair of the international project, Dr Bergseth made the genetic code public at a scientific conference in Vancouver, Canada, on 10 June 2014.

Help streamline the industry

The new knowledge will be useful in efforts to develop new vaccines, improve feeding and understand more about what happens when escaped farmed fish mix with their wild counterparts. Selective breeding of salmon will be more targeted and efficient.

In the longer term, the genomic knowledge will help to streamline the aquaculture industry while providing consumers with healthier farmed salmon, produced with as little environmental impact as possible.

Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director at the fish farming company Marine Harvest, agrees that 10 June is a milestone for anyone involved in aquaculture. Marine Harvest is one of the industrial partners in the genome project and has contributed to its funding.

Better breeding tools

“The sequence will make it possible to develop new, more effective selective breeding tools that will make us even better at choosing parent fish with desired traits for the next generation of salmon,” says Mr Arnesen.

“Enhanced knowledge about the genetic material allows us to utilise more of the genetic variation from within the stocks that farmed salmon are produced from. Furthermore, the sequence opens up new prospects for studying biological and physiological processes.”

Healthier fish

Mr Arnesen emphasises that selective breeding practices in no way involve gene modification, but rather are a means to finding the right individuals to select as parent fish — individuals that naturally have desired traits that producers want to pass on to coming generations of production salmon.

He is convinced that the salmon genome sequence will help to promote a healthier aquaculture industry.

“We are seeking to produce fish that are as healthy as possible,” continues Mr Arnesen, “and among other traits that entails better disease resistance. Salmon lice are currently our biggest challenge, along with other parasites and viruses.”

Solving environmental challenges

Using the salmon genome as a tool, salmon producers hope to raise fish that grow faster, which means less time spent at sea.

The sequence, he asserts, “is also going to play a major role in solving our environmental challenges, if we can for instance select for individuals that are more resistant to disease and parasites and that can adapt well to new feed types. For many consumers, environmental soundness is an integral part of product quality. The conscientious consumer will not buy salmon if its production is harmful to the environment.”

Fighting disease

Improved vaccines have eliminated most of the bacterial diseases that were causing substantial losses at fish farms into the 1990s. These vaccines, however, are not effective against viruses — so one solution is selecting parent fish with virus-resistant traits to use as broodstock for salmon egg production.

AquaGen is another industrial partner in the genome project that is looking forward to utilising the sequenced genome. A major supplier of salmon eggs, the company invests heavily in research and development.

One project that AquaGen started up in 2005 was a collaboration with the Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) to make a precise map of the genetic markers that make certain salmon individuals resistant to the IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis) virus.

Success

Over the years this virus has been the cause of major disease outbreaks at fish farms around the world, leading to significant economic losses. The research project has paid off.

“The IPN project has been a huge success,” says Nina Santi, head of R&D at AquaGen. “Since we started using eggs from fish with the desired traits, the number of IPN outbreaks in Norway has dropped from 200 per year to 50.”

Could have saved years of work

The project also illustrates the progress to be gained from knowing the complete salmon genome.

First step

“After the IPN markers were identified in 2007,” continues Dr Santi, “we have been working for seven years on mapping the mechanism for resistance to the IPN virus. Had we had access to the genome sequence now being made public, it would have saved us several years.”

She stresses that the sequence is only the first step.

“Now we know the genome of one individual, which the scientists named Sally, but we are more interested in understanding the variations between individuals. Our next step is to sequence different generations in order to find out, for example, which of them is most resistant to disease and exhibits good growth and red fillet colour.”

Extraordinary potential to create value

Survival rates just a few per cent higher translate into major earnings for the Norwegian aquaculture industry, where the annual turnover is NOK 45 billion (approximately 5,6 billion Euro/7,6 billion Dollars), according to Odd Magne Rødseth, Chairman of the Board at AquaGen.

“In the past 15 to 20 years,” Dr Rødseth explains, “viruses have been the primary cause of mortality. What we are seeing now is the result of better selective breeding programmes focused on disease resistance. Mortality has dropped four to five per cent for the latest year-class of salmon. This is due to what is in effect the elimination of IPN, thanks to practical application of new knowledge about the salmon genome. This increase in survival means an additional profit of NOK 2.6 billion (approximately 320 million Euro/440 million Dollars) .”

Now that the entire salmon genome has been sequenced and made available, Dr Rødseth is certain that it will become cheaper and faster to find other significant genes in the future.

“In the next three to five years,” he predicts, “we will probably be hearing more success stories like the IPN achievement.”

Complex genetic material

The international genome project has revealed the salmon’s genetic material as very complex.

Whereas most species (including humans) have two copies of each chromosome, salmon have four, which posed special challenges during the already painstaking work of sequencing.

The five-year project is the largest research collaboration ever carried out between the salmon-producing countries of Canada, Chile and Norway. The sequence is now being made available to the global research community and industry alike.

“This will strengthen salmon-related research in many fields, from physiology and genetics to nutrition and reproduction,” says Kjell Maroni of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF). “It will also open up more possibilities for international cooperation, which will benefit the entire aquaculture industry.”

Researchers and industry involved with other salmonids such as rainbow trout, char and Pacific salmon will also find useful applications for this new tool.

Continued international work

Participants at the 10 June conference in Canada will be discussing possibilities for continued international collaboration based on the reference sequence.

Countries other than Norway, Canada and Chile are also invited to take part.

“These efforts, if successful, will yield great returns in the form of future understanding of salmonids and their environment,” says Dr Bergseth, emphasising how crucial it is to use the sequence now that it has been obtained:

“Now we have a new textbook at our disposal, but it won’t help if we don’t consult it. Salmon is Norway’s most important production animal, and we have invested a great deal in the genome project. Now we need to continue to invest in R&D to translate that knowledge into products of value.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Milestone in salmon research: Genome fully sequenced

Fully sequencing the Atlantic salmon genome is a landmark achievement — and provides a wellspring of new opportunities for scientists and the aquaculture industry worldwide.

The detailed overview of the salmon’s genetic material provides the framework for new research and development that may solve many longstanding riddles.

“We now have the complete sequence of the Atlantic salmon genome, every letter and code.

This is a powerful tool for understanding the connection between the salmon’s genetic codes and its biology,” says Steinar Bergseth, Special Adviser at the Research Council of Norway.

As chair of the international project, Dr Bergseth made the genetic code public at a scientific conference in Vancouver, Canada, on 10 June 2014.

Help streamline the industry

The new knowledge will be useful in efforts to develop new vaccines, improve feeding and understand more about what happens when escaped farmed fish mix with their wild counterparts. Selective breeding of salmon will be more targeted and efficient.

In the longer term, the genomic knowledge will help to streamline the aquaculture industry while providing consumers with healthier farmed salmon, produced with as little environmental impact as possible.

Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director at the fish farming company Marine Harvest, agrees that 10 June is a milestone for anyone involved in aquaculture. Marine Harvest is one of the industrial partners in the genome project and has contributed to its funding.

Better breeding tools

“The sequence will make it possible to develop new, more effective selective breeding tools that will make us even better at choosing parent fish with desired traits for the next generation of salmon,” says Mr Arnesen.

“Enhanced knowledge about the genetic material allows us to utilise more of the genetic variation from within the stocks that farmed salmon are produced from. Furthermore, the sequence opens up new prospects for studying biological and physiological processes.”

Healthier fish

Mr Arnesen emphasises that selective breeding practices in no way involve gene modification, but rather are a means to finding the right individuals to select as parent fish — individuals that naturally have desired traits that producers want to pass on to coming generations of production salmon.

He is convinced that the salmon genome sequence will help to promote a healthier aquaculture industry.

“We are seeking to produce fish that are as healthy as possible,” continues Mr Arnesen, “and among other traits that entails better disease resistance. Salmon lice are currently our biggest challenge, along with other parasites and viruses.”

Solving environmental challenges

Using the salmon genome as a tool, salmon producers hope to raise fish that grow faster, which means less time spent at sea.

The sequence, he asserts, “is also going to play a major role in solving our environmental challenges, if we can for instance select for individuals that are more resistant to disease and parasites and that can adapt well to new feed types. For many consumers, environmental soundness is an integral part of product quality. The conscientious consumer will not buy salmon if its production is harmful to the environment.”

Fighting disease

Improved vaccines have eliminated most of the bacterial diseases that were causing substantial losses at fish farms into the 1990s. These vaccines, however, are not effective against viruses — so one solution is selecting parent fish with virus-resistant traits to use as broodstock for salmon egg production.

AquaGen is another industrial partner in the genome project that is looking forward to utilising the sequenced genome. A major supplier of salmon eggs, the company invests heavily in research and development.

One project that AquaGen started up in 2005 was a collaboration with the Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) to make a precise map of the genetic markers that make certain salmon individuals resistant to the IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis) virus.

Success

Over the years this virus has been the cause of major disease outbreaks at fish farms around the world, leading to significant economic losses. The research project has paid off.

“The IPN project has been a huge success,” says Nina Santi, head of R&D at AquaGen. “Since we started using eggs from fish with the desired traits, the number of IPN outbreaks in Norway has dropped from 200 per year to 50.”

Could have saved years of work

The project also illustrates the progress to be gained from knowing the complete salmon genome.

First step

“After the IPN markers were identified in 2007,” continues Dr Santi, “we have been working for seven years on mapping the mechanism for resistance to the IPN virus. Had we had access to the genome sequence now being made public, it would have saved us several years.”

She stresses that the sequence is only the first step.

“Now we know the genome of one individual, which the scientists named Sally, but we are more interested in understanding the variations between individuals. Our next step is to sequence different generations in order to find out, for example, which of them is most resistant to disease and exhibits good growth and red fillet colour.”

Extraordinary potential to create value

Survival rates just a few per cent higher translate into major earnings for the Norwegian aquaculture industry, where the annual turnover is NOK 45 billion (approximately 5,6 billion Euro/7,6 billion Dollars), according to Odd Magne Rødseth, Chairman of the Board at AquaGen.

“In the past 15 to 20 years,” Dr Rødseth explains, “viruses have been the primary cause of mortality. What we are seeing now is the result of better selective breeding programmes focused on disease resistance. Mortality has dropped four to five per cent for the latest year-class of salmon. This is due to what is in effect the elimination of IPN, thanks to practical application of new knowledge about the salmon genome. This increase in survival means an additional profit of NOK 2.6 billion (approximately 320 million Euro/440 million Dollars) .”

Now that the entire salmon genome has been sequenced and made available, Dr Rødseth is certain that it will become cheaper and faster to find other significant genes in the future.

“In the next three to five years,” he predicts, “we will probably be hearing more success stories like the IPN achievement.”

Complex genetic material

The international genome project has revealed the salmon’s genetic material as very complex.

Whereas most species (including humans) have two copies of each chromosome, salmon have four, which posed special challenges during the already painstaking work of sequencing.

The five-year project is the largest research collaboration ever carried out between the salmon-producing countries of Canada, Chile and Norway. The sequence is now being made available to the global research community and industry alike.

“This will strengthen salmon-related research in many fields, from physiology and genetics to nutrition and reproduction,” says Kjell Maroni of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF). “It will also open up more possibilities for international cooperation, which will benefit the entire aquaculture industry.”

Researchers and industry involved with other salmonids such as rainbow trout, char and Pacific salmon will also find useful applications for this new tool.

Continued international work

Participants at the 10 June conference in Canada will be discussing possibilities for continued international collaboration based on the reference sequence.

Countries other than Norway, Canada and Chile are also invited to take part.

“These efforts, if successful, will yield great returns in the form of future understanding of salmonids and their environment,” says Dr Bergseth, emphasising how crucial it is to use the sequence now that it has been obtained:

“Now we have a new textbook at our disposal, but it won’t help if we don’t consult it. Salmon is Norway’s most important production animal, and we have invested a great deal in the genome project. Now we need to continue to invest in R&D to translate that knowledge into products of value.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Using genetics to measure environmental impact of salmon farming

Determining species diversity makes it possible to estimate the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems accurately. The environmental effects of salmon farming have been assessed, until now, by visually identifying the animals living in the marine sediment samples collected at specific distances from farming sites. A team led by Jan Pawlowski, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, analysed this type of sediment using a technique known as “DNA barcoding” that targets certain micro-organisms. Their research, which has been published in the Molecular Ecology Resources journal, reveals the potential of this new genomic tool for detecting environmental changes as accurately as with traditional methods — but more quickly and at lower cost.

Salmon farming is one of the most widespread activities in marine aquaculture. It has a considerable impact on the environment, which is largely due to three factors: the accumulation of food waste and faecal matter; the toxicity caused by the chemicals employed to clean the cages; and the drugs that are used.

The impact of such farms on the coastal environment is traditionally assessed by monitoring some of the small species that live in the sediments beneath the cages. The visual identification of these animals under a microscope is time consuming and extremely expensive. It also requires highly-trained taxonomy specialists, which renders the method unsuitable for large-scale use. But, as Jan Pawlowski, professor in the Department of Genetics and Evolution at UNIGE, explains: “It is now possible to address this problem using sophisticated tools that analyse the DNA and RNA extracted from sediment samples.”

Genetic barcodes

Working alongside researchers from the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (UK) and the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Pawlowski collected sediment samples at specific distances from two salmon farms in the heart of the Scottish fjords. “We used genetic barcodes that recognise specific fragments of DNA and RNA extracted from the sediment samples,” explains researcher Franck Lejzerowicz, a PhD student in the professor’s team: “These ‘genetic hooks’ consist of DNA sequences that vary between species but remain stable within a given species.”

The DNA barcodes used make it possible to identify the different foraminiferal species that are present in the sediments. These single-celled micro-organisms, which have a great diversity, are already recognised environmental bioindicators. As a result, the geneticists were able to process a large number of samples using high-throughput DNA sequencing. “Our study revealed large variations between foraminiferal species collected near farms and those from remote sites. In addition, species diversity diminishes on sites affected by the farms.”

Monitoring the quality of the environment

This type of highly-accurate ecological analysis allowed to establish a correlation between species richness and distance from the cages, a correlation that is even more pronounced if the farm is only stirred by weak sea currents. The same type of correlation was also established based on the degree of oxygenation of the sediments. As Jan Pawlowski states: “The vast amount of organic compounds on the farming sites can even sometimes generate anoxic sediments, which makes it impossible for most species to survive.” The biologists were also surprised to discover a new species of foraminifera, which could serve as a bioindicator of organic enrichment.

This technology, known as “metabarcoding,” is spreading rapidly, and can be used to supply information on the overall diversity of the micro-organisms found in all samples. The method is suitable for large-scale tests because it is much quicker, more reliable and easier to standardise than the processes that are used at present. This study is one of the first attempts to use environmental genomics as a tool for assessing the impact of industries such as marine aquaculture or offshore drilling.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Université de Genève. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Kroger, Safeway Will Nix GMO Salmon Regardless of FDA Decision

Kroger and Safeway, the largest retail grocery companies in the U.S., have reportedly agreed not to sell genetically modified salmon. The decision was released Monday by a coalition of food safety, consumer, health and fishing groups.

The two grocery chains are now part of more than 9,000 stores across the country that have rejected carrying the GM AquAdvantage® salmon regardless of whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves it for public consumption, which it has not yet officially done.

“By making commitments to not sell genetically engineered salmon, Kroger and Safeway have joined the large number of grocery chains, from Trader Joe’s to Target, that have wisely chosen to listen to the majority of consumers who do not want to eat genetically engineered fish,” said Dana Perls, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, a member of the consumer coalition. “Now Costco, Walmart, Albertsons and other retailers need to catch up and provide their customers with what they want: natural, sustainable seafood that isn’t genetically engineered in a lab.”

“Today’s announcement by major grocery retailers makes it even more clear that there is no demand for GE salmon,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement. “It’s time for the FDA to deny the application for this unsustainable and unnecessary new genetically engineered food.”

Other retail grocers such as Target, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have also pledged not to sell GMO salmon, and Costco is being pressured to join them.

The GMO salmon, developed by MA-based AquaBounty Technologies, contains a growth gene from the Chinook salmon which the company says could allow its GMO salmon to grow to market size in half the time of a conventional Atlantic salmon.

FDA has made a preliminary finding that approving AquAdvantage® salmon for human consumption would not have a significant impact on the environment if, as planned, it is raised in tanks away from the ocean.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer reaction to the GMO salmon has been critical and extensive. FDA received more than 1 million public comments asking it not to approve the GMO salmon last year. There have also been concerns raised about the overall effect on wild salmon stocks and the potential interbreeding of wild salmon with GMO salmon.

Food Safety News

Smoked Salmon Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

Lochiel Enterprises Limited of Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia is recalling 56 lbs of smoke salmon products because of potential Listeria contamination.

The recalled products are St Mary’s River Smokehouses Oven Smoked Salmon Stix, Chili Mango Flavor in a 4oz, black Styrofoam tray with an outer sleeve bearing the UPC Code 6 2642510092 9. The recall is specific to products marked with the production code 347 31## on a sticker on the end of the styrofoam tray.

The Salmon was distributed in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York through retail stores.

The recall was the result of a routine sampling program by FDA which revealed that samples of the finished products contained the Listeria. Lochiel Enterprises Limited has voluntarily initiated the recall and is continuing its investigation.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Consumers who have purchased the product are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Food Safety News

GE Salmon, Apples Keep Genetic Labeling On Legislative Menu in Olympia

Usually the Washington Legislature will steer clear – at least for a while – of a topic voters have settled in a recent initiative. That unwritten rule might ordinarily keep bills for labeling genetically modified food off the table for a while since voters narrowly nixed that idea in deciding against Initiative 522.

House Bill (HB) 2143, calling for labeling genetically engineered salmon, may be an exception to that rule. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling on an application for a fast-growing GMO salmon is expected later this year.

State Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee), a sponsor of HB 2143, says that since Washington state already requires labeling salmon as either “farmed” or “fresh,” it only makes sense to also label “transgenic” fish. The bill also prohibits raising GMO fish with fins in state waters.

The state’s aquaculture and biotech industries oppose HB 2143. In testimony this past Friday in Olympia, industry representatives charged that the bill was introduced to stigmatize genetic technology and generate fear.

They also said that the bill is unnecessary and claimed state law already prohibits transgenic fish in aquaculture. And they reminded a committee hearing on Friday that state voters have already spoken in their 51-49 percent rejection of I-522 last November.

Proponents said the state has to protect Washington’s native salmon population, and they claimed those fish stocks would be threatened by FDA approval of the first GMO animal approved for human consumption. FDA is reviewing comments on the issue and has not promised a delivery date for a decision. The application under consideration is from Aqua Bounty Technologies.

Testing is also now under way in Washington state and New York, both apple-growing regions, of two varieties of the non-browning Arctic Apple. The Arctic Apple is being developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., of British Columbia.

The Yakima-based Northwest Horticultural Council, representing the region’s fruit industry, wants USDA to reject the GMO apple to avoid marketing confusion for traditional and organic apples. The council says it has no concerns over food safety.

Another bill in Olympia could apply to the Arctic Apple. A USDA decision on the Arctic Apple could come this year.

Food Safety News

Ireland Recalls Smoked Salmon for Listeria Contamination

smoked salmon on bagelThe Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued a recall of Clarke’s Fish Exports farmed oak smoked salmon with Clarke’s Fish Exports label as “a precautionary measure” after Listeria was detected in some batches.

The affected smoked salmon was supplied to distributors, on-line customers and retail shops and has use-by dates between 19/12/2013 and 08/01/2014.

Batch codes  FN47700 / FN47800 / FN47900 with a use by date of 11/01/14 are not implicated and Clarke’s Organic Farmed Smoked Salmon is not affected by the recall.

Food business operators who bought the affected smoked salmon have been asked to remove it from sale and consumers have been advised not to eat the product.

Food Safety News

Salmon to Lead Kellogg’s U.S. Sales Organization

Oct. 22, 2013

Kellogg US Sales Head Scott SalmonBATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Kellogg Co. said Scott Salmon has been promoted to senior vice president, Kellogg USA Sales, reporting to Michael Allen, president, U.S. Morning Foods and Brian Huff, president, U.S. Snacks — the leaders of Kellogg North America’s largest business units.


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Join SN’s LinkedIn Group to network with industry professionals.


Salmon has been with the Kellogg sales organization for 22 years.

Darcey Macken, most recently Kellogg USA sales lead, was appointed to lead a new Global Sales Center of Excellence.

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Supermarket News

Smoked Salmon and Cod Recalled for Botulism Risk

Big Blue Fisheries, LLC of Sitka, Alaska, is recalling all of its vacuum-packaged smoked salmon and cod products because they were not properly cooked and may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that cause botulism.

The company is encouraging customers to discard the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

The following products bear the label code AK#604 and are subject to recall:

The recall was initiated after a routine inspection by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation led to the discovery that some products may not have been properly cooked.

Despite the recall dating back to products made in September 2011, there have been no reported illnesses or consumer complaints linked to the product to date.

Symptoms of botulism include general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble speaking or swallowing. Anyone experiencing such symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Photo of the product label:

Food Safety News

How Safe is Home-Smoked Salmon?

For many salmon anglers, part of the joy of landing the fish is taking it home and smoking it to share with friends. But with recent news about Listeria bacteria, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen, detected on some smoked salmon made by well-known fish producers, the question arises: How safe is home-smoked fish?

Fortunately, there’s no mysterious hocus-pocus involved in smoking your own fish. The name of the game comes down to preventing foodborne illnesses by following basic, straightforward guidelines: keeping things clean, using the right ingredients, and keeping the fish at the right temperatures, before, during and after smoking.

A surprise to many people is that the biggest problem with contamination comes after the smoking is done, said Barbara Rasco, professor at Washington State University and food-safety attorney, in an interview with Food Safety News.

She ticked off some examples of how that can happen, among them handling the finished product with unwashed hands or letting it come into contact with dirty water, brine, sauce or coatings. And, as with all foods, cross-contamination can occur if the fish comes into contact with a utensil or surface that has been contaminated with pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella or the dangerous form of E. coli — or even from a knife used to cut up the fish before it was smoked. Then there’s always what Rasco refers to as “the dirty rag or sponge from hell.”

Her advice about “keeping things clean” mirrors information — based on federal guidelines — from the National Center for Home Preservation. According to those guidelines, all equipment, work surfaces and utensils should be cleaned and sanitized before and after use. An example of a sanitizing solution for home use is one tablespoon of chlorine bleach in a gallon of warm water. The guidelines also point out that “cross-contamination between raw and/or dirty surfaces with clean or cooked food products should be of prime concern.”

Most consumers making smoked salmon in the Northwest are making hot-smoked salmon. Rasco said in cases like that, contamination is almost always caused by handling problems after the fish has been smoked.

Referring to the smoked salmon that has been the subject of recent recalls, Rasco said that Listeria present in the marine environment can “come in” with the fish, and since there is no “kill step,” it would remain in the final product. She also pointed out that, during the recent recalls, no one actually became infected with Listeria. It was just that it was detected on the fish.

Among the smoked-salmon processors caught up in the recent recalls were Ocean Beauty, Marine Harvest and Pacific Seafood Group. Some of the big retailers hit by the recalls were Whole Foods Market, Walmart, Ralph’s, King Sooper’s and Sam’s Club.

With that in mind, Rasco said that if the large commercial smokers have been having problems with Listeria in smoked fish, “God knows what the home-smokers are doing.”

“The reason I’m worried about this is that, by following food-safety guidelines, you can kill Listeria and other pathogens,” she said. “But if Listeria gets on the fish after it has been smoked, it can keep growing on it in the refrigerator. Freezing doesn’t kill it; it just keeps it from growing.”

Commercial cold-smoking

The smoking process used in the recalled commercial fish is referred to as “cold-smoking,” which is considered a riskier method than “hot-smoking.” According to a Pacific Northwest Extension publication about smoking fish at home, cold-smoked fish is cured and smoked at temperatures below a range of 80-90 degrees F during the smoking process. That means it is unpasteurized and, for that reason, must be handled carefully to avoid illness from harmful bacteria.

While some home-smokers cold-smoke their salmon, most hot-smoke it. However, home smokers can use both of these methods safely as long as they follow instructions and abide by basic food-safety guidelines.

According to a Colorado State University Extension’s SafeFood Rapid Response Network newsletter, cold-smoked salmon is considered safe for healthy, non-immune-compromised persons. However, as with other raw or semi-raw meat products, it is risky for pregnant women, the frail elderly and others with compromised immune systems due to disease or medical therapy. Many countries, including the U.S., recommend that these groups avoid cold-smoked fish.

The shelf life of cold-smoked salmon is very short, one to two weeks in the refrigerator and about one month in the freezer. Storage time is another critical factor in the proliferation of Listeria bacteria since it can grow at low temperatures. Rasco recommends that individuals who are particularly susceptible to Listeria, such as pregnant women, consider lightly heating smoked salmon prior to eating it to reduce the risk.

It’s important to know that, no matter which method you use, smoke by itself is not an effective food preservative without proper cooking. The danger zone for microbial growth is between 40 to 140 degrees F. That’s why it’s important to store, age, cure and smoke the fish at the right temperatures.

The ABCs of hot-smoking

The good news about home-smoked salmon, according to the same Pacific Northwest Extension publication about smoking fish at home, is that you can smoke any fish without worrying about foodborne illnesses if you follow some basic practices in preparing, salting, smoking, cooking and storing it.

Salt, smoke and heat are the three common factors in hot-smoking salmon. Fish smoked without proper salting and cooking can not only make people sick, it can also be lethal. That’s because many dangerous bacteria can, and will, grow under the conditions normally found in the preparation and storage of smoked fish.

Of those bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism, is of special concern in smoked salmon stored in vacuum packing in the refrigerator for long periods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism is a public-health emergency because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.

In addition to botulism and Listeria, other harmful foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and the pathogenic form of E. coli can infect people who eat smoked fish that hasn’t been correctly prepared or has been mishandled after it has been smoked.

Safety tips

Because it’s hard for the home-smoker to know the exact salt content of the finished product, the Pacific Northwest Extension publication advises that the following conditions be met so salmon will not support the growth of harmful bacteria:

  • Salt preserves smoked fish by reducing the moisture content, but because home-smokers don’t usually have a way to accurately analyze the salt content of the finished product, it’s important that the fish be properly cooked and refrigerated.
  • Cut the pieces of fish into uniform size and thickness to reduce the chance that some pieces will be either under- or over-salted. Doing this will help prevent foodborne pathogens from contaminating the fish.
  • Salt or brine fish long enough to ensure that enough salt is present throughout the entire piece of smoked fish.
  • Salt the fish before smoking it in a strong salt solution — one part table salt and seven parts water by volume for one hour for most fish. (One cup salt with seven cups of water will salt about two to three pounds of fish.)

The National Center for Home Food Preservation Guide warns that only food-grade salt without additives, such as iodine, should be used. Rasco suggests using food-grade rock salt dissolved in water.

“Don’t use salts with anti-caking agents because that can lead to quality problems with the fish,” she said.

  • If you plan on storing the smoked fish, keep it under refrigeration at 38 degrees F or less.
  • Do not let fish sit longer than two hours at room temperature after cleaning and before smoking. Rasco also said that it’s important when using frozen fish to make sure it’s thoroughly thawed out since the salt can’t penetrate into the tissue when it’s frozen. This, in turn, could lead to food-safety problems.
  • Once the fish has been brined, rinse the surface of the fish and allow it to air-dry, meat side up, for at least an hour on a greased rack in a cool place until a pellicle forms. A pellicle is a shiny, slightly tacky skin that will form on the meat surface of the fish. The pellicle will give the smoke a chance to deposit evenly during smoking and also help prevent the surface from spoiling during smoking.
  • You can add ingredients such as brown sugar and soy sauce, but don’t add any oil.
  • Smoke the fish for up to two hours at about 90 degrees F in a smoker and then increase the heat until the fish reaches at least 150 degrees F (preferably 160 degrees F) and then cook it for at least another 30 minutes. Use a thermometer to make sure the thickest section of the fish is at a high-enough temperature.
  • Since it’s difficult to reach high-enough temperatures for proper cooking when using the small metal smokers available in most hardware or sporting-goods stores, follow up the smoking process by putting the fish in a home oven to bring it up to a core temperature of 150-160 degrees F.

Rasco said that one of the small metal smokers could be used for up to two hours to complete the first part of the smoking process. After that, put the fish in a home oven to finish it up.

If, after the fish has been smoked, the right outdoor cooling conditions (cool, dry air) aren’t present, Rasco said you can put the fish in a smoker with low heat (80 to 90 degrees F), no smoke, and with the doors open so the pellicle can form. She advises to cool the fish down to 110 degrees F or lower before packaging it.

When packaging the fish, it has to be cool enough, Rasco said. When fish that hasn’t been cooled down enough is put into a ziplock bag or vacuum-sealed in a plastic package, the difference in temperature between the fish and the refrigerator can cause condensation.

  • If you don’t plan to immediately eat the smoked fish you’ve vacuum-packed, put it in the refrigerator (preferably at 38 degrees F or less) or into the freezer. And, if you don’t vacuum-pack your fish, keep it refrigerated to ensure quality and safety.
  • If you’re storing the fish for longer than two weeks, tightly wrap and freeze it. Properly frozen smoked fish can hold for up to one year.

Susan Westmoreland, food director for Good Housekeeping, offers this advice about storing smoked salmon: Put it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, where it’s coldest. Unopened, it will keep for two weeks; after opening, one week. Store opened salmon in the original package; over-wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a self-sealing plastic bag to prevent dryness. (If the edges dry out, just snip them away with a pair of scissors.)

  • Use only hardwood for smoking. Maple, oak, alder, hickory, birch and fruit woods are good choices. Woods from conifers such as fir, spruce, pine or cedar will leave an unpleasant taste on the fish.

What ifs

What if a friend proudly offers you some salmon he or she has smoked? You can’t very well grill the person about how the fish was smoked. Rasco suggests that you graciously accept it. Then, later, heat it up to 150 to 160 degrees F and eat as is or use it to make sauces or sandwiches.

When asked about statistics pertaining to food poisoning caused by home-smoked salmon, Rasco said that information like that isn’t available, in large part because there aren’t many illnesses of this sort.

“Most people who consume smoked salmon are healthy,” she said. “The elderly and the very young don’t usually want it because of its strong taste and high salt content.”

She also believes that, in general, there’s more paranoia about smoked salmon than is warranted.

“People don’t eat a lot of it, and they usually eat only one or two ounces at a time,” she noted.

When asked about the safety of fish and other meats “back in the old days,” Rasco said that the way it was done then, before refrigeration, called for a lot of salt. As a result, smoked fish (or other meats) were very salty and very dry.

“But we like products that are less salty now,” she said, adding that using the right amount of salt is important when it comes to preventing Listeria and other foodborne pathogens.

For more information and details about safely hot-smoking salmon, refer to the Pacific Northwest Extension’s publication on this topic.

Food Safety News

How Safe is Home-Smoked Salmon?

For many salmon anglers, part of the joy of landing the fish is taking it home and smoking it to share with friends. But with recent news about Listeria bacteria, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen, detected on some smoked salmon made by well-known fish producers, the question arises: How safe is home-smoked fish?

Fortunately, there’s no mysterious hocus-pocus involved in smoking your own fish. The name of the game comes down to preventing foodborne illnesses by following basic, straightforward guidelines: keeping things clean, using the right ingredients, and keeping the fish at the right temperatures, before, during and after smoking.

A surprise to many people is that the biggest problem with contamination comes after the smoking is done, said Barbara Rasco, professor at Washington State University and food-safety attorney, in an interview with Food Safety News.

She ticked off some examples of how that can happen, among them handling the finished product with unwashed hands or letting it come into contact with dirty water, brine, sauce or coatings. And, as with all foods, cross-contamination can occur if the fish comes into contact with a utensil or surface that has been contaminated with pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella or the dangerous form of E. coli — or even from a knife used to cut up the fish before it was smoked. Then there’s always what Rasco refers to as “the dirty rag or sponge from hell.”

Her advice about “keeping things clean” mirrors information — based on federal guidelines — from the National Center for Home Preservation. According to those guidelines, all equipment, work surfaces and utensils should be cleaned and sanitized before and after use. An example of a sanitizing solution for home use is one tablespoon of chlorine bleach in a gallon of warm water. The guidelines also point out that “cross-contamination between raw and/or dirty surfaces with clean or cooked food products should be of prime concern.”

Most consumers making smoked salmon in the Northwest are making hot-smoked salmon. Rasco said in cases like that, contamination is almost always caused by handling problems after the fish has been smoked.

Referring to the smoked salmon that has been the subject of recent recalls, Rasco said that Listeria present in the marine environment can “come in” with the fish, and since there is no “kill step,” it would remain in the final product. She also pointed out that, during the recent recalls, no one actually became infected with Listeria. It was just that it was detected on the fish.

Among the smoked-salmon processors caught up in the recent recalls were Ocean Beauty, Marine Harvest and Pacific Seafood Group. Some of the big retailers hit by the recalls were Whole Foods Market, Walmart, Ralph’s, King Sooper’s and Sam’s Club.

With that in mind, Rasco said that if the large commercial smokers have been having problems with Listeria in smoked fish, “God knows what the home-smokers are doing.”

“The reason I’m worried about this is that, by following food-safety guidelines, you can kill Listeria and other pathogens,” she said. “But if Listeria gets on the fish after it has been smoked, it can keep growing on it in the refrigerator. Freezing doesn’t kill it; it just keeps it from growing.”

Commercial cold-smoking

The smoking process used in the recalled commercial fish is referred to as “cold-smoking,” which is considered a riskier method than “hot-smoking.” According to a Pacific Northwest Extension publication about smoking fish at home, cold-smoked fish is cured and smoked at temperatures below a range of 80-90 degrees F during the smoking process. That means it is unpasteurized and, for that reason, must be handled carefully to avoid illness from harmful bacteria.

While some home-smokers cold-smoke their salmon, most hot-smoke it. However, home smokers can use both of these methods safely as long as they follow instructions and abide by basic food-safety guidelines.

According to a Colorado State University Extension’s SafeFood Rapid Response Network newsletter, cold-smoked salmon is considered safe for healthy, non-immune-compromised persons. However, as with other raw or semi-raw meat products, it is risky for pregnant women, the frail elderly and others with compromised immune systems due to disease or medical therapy. Many countries, including the U.S., recommend that these groups avoid cold-smoked fish.

The shelf life of cold-smoked salmon is very short, one to two weeks in the refrigerator and about one month in the freezer. Storage time is another critical factor in the proliferation of Listeria bacteria since it can grow at low temperatures. Rasco recommends that individuals who are particularly susceptible to Listeria, such as pregnant women, consider lightly heating smoked salmon prior to eating it to reduce the risk.

It’s important to know that, no matter which method you use, smoke by itself is not an effective food preservative without proper cooking. The danger zone for microbial growth is between 40 to 140 degrees F. That’s why it’s important to store, age, cure and smoke the fish at the right temperatures.

The ABCs of hot-smoking

The good news about home-smoked salmon, according to the same Pacific Northwest Extension publication about smoking fish at home, is that you can smoke any fish without worrying about foodborne illnesses if you follow some basic practices in preparing, salting, smoking, cooking and storing it.

Salt, smoke and heat are the three common factors in hot-smoking salmon. Fish smoked without proper salting and cooking can not only make people sick, it can also be lethal. That’s because many dangerous bacteria can, and will, grow under the conditions normally found in the preparation and storage of smoked fish.

Of those bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism, is of special concern in smoked salmon stored in vacuum packing in the refrigerator for long periods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism is a public-health emergency because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.

In addition to botulism and Listeria, other harmful foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and the pathogenic form of E. coli can infect people who eat smoked fish that hasn’t been correctly prepared or has been mishandled after it has been smoked.

Safety tips

Because it’s hard for the home-smoker to know the exact salt content of the finished product, the Pacific Northwest Extension publication advises that the following conditions be met so salmon will not support the growth of harmful bacteria:

  • Salt preserves smoked fish by reducing the moisture content, but because home-smokers don’t usually have a way to accurately analyze the salt content of the finished product, it’s important that the fish be properly cooked and refrigerated.
  • Cut the pieces of fish into uniform size and thickness to reduce the chance that some pieces will be either under- or over-salted. Doing this will help prevent foodborne pathogens from contaminating the fish.
  • Salt or brine fish long enough to ensure that enough salt is present throughout the entire piece of smoked fish.
  • Salt the fish before smoking it in a strong salt solution — one part table salt and seven parts water by volume for one hour for most fish. (One cup salt with seven cups of water will salt about two to three pounds of fish.)

The National Center for Home Food Preservation Guide warns that only food-grade salt without additives, such as iodine, should be used. Rasco suggests using food-grade rock salt dissolved in water.

“Don’t use salts with anti-caking agents because that can lead to quality problems with the fish,” she said.

  • If you plan on storing the smoked fish, keep it under refrigeration at 38 degrees F or less.
  • Do not let fish sit longer than two hours at room temperature after cleaning and before smoking. Rasco also said that it’s important when using frozen fish to make sure it’s thoroughly thawed out since the salt can’t penetrate into the tissue when it’s frozen. This, in turn, could lead to food-safety problems.
  • Once the fish has been brined, rinse the surface of the fish and allow it to air-dry, meat side up, for at least an hour on a greased rack in a cool place until a pellicle forms. A pellicle is a shiny, slightly tacky skin that will form on the meat surface of the fish. The pellicle will give the smoke a chance to deposit evenly during smoking and also help prevent the surface from spoiling during smoking.
  • You can add ingredients such as brown sugar and soy sauce, but don’t add any oil.
  • Smoke the fish for up to two hours at about 90 degrees F in a smoker and then increase the heat until the fish reaches at least 150 degrees F (preferably 160 degrees F) and then cook it for at least another 30 minutes. Use a thermometer to make sure the thickest section of the fish is at a high-enough temperature.
  • Since it’s difficult to reach high-enough temperatures for proper cooking when using the small metal smokers available in most hardware or sporting-goods stores, follow up the smoking process by putting the fish in a home oven to bring it up to a core temperature of 150-160 degrees F.

Rasco said that one of the small metal smokers could be used for up to two hours to complete the first part of the smoking process. After that, put the fish in a home oven to finish it up.

If, after the fish has been smoked, the right outdoor cooling conditions (cool, dry air) aren’t present, Rasco said you can put the fish in a smoker with low heat (80 to 90 degrees F), no smoke, and with the doors open so the pellicle can form. She advises to cool the fish down to 110 degrees F or lower before packaging it.

When packaging the fish, it has to be cool enough, Rasco said. When fish that hasn’t been cooled down enough is put into a ziplock bag or vacuum-sealed in a plastic package, the difference in temperature between the fish and the refrigerator can cause condensation.

  • If you don’t plan to immediately eat the smoked fish you’ve vacuum-packed, put it in the refrigerator (preferably at 38 degrees F or less) or into the freezer. And, if you don’t vacuum-pack your fish, keep it refrigerated to ensure quality and safety.
  • If you’re storing the fish for longer than two weeks, tightly wrap and freeze it. Properly frozen smoked fish can hold for up to one year.

Susan Westmoreland, food director for Good Housekeeping, offers this advice about storing smoked salmon: Put it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, where it’s coldest. Unopened, it will keep for two weeks; after opening, one week. Store opened salmon in the original package; over-wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a self-sealing plastic bag to prevent dryness. (If the edges dry out, just snip them away with a pair of scissors.)

  • Use only hardwood for smoking. Maple, oak, alder, hickory, birch and fruit woods are good choices. Woods from conifers such as fir, spruce, pine or cedar will leave an unpleasant taste on the fish.

What ifs

What if a friend proudly offers you some salmon he or she has smoked? You can’t very well grill the person about how the fish was smoked. Rasco suggests that you graciously accept it. Then, later, heat it up to 150 to 160 degrees F and eat as is or use it to make sauces or sandwiches.

When asked about statistics pertaining to food poisoning caused by home-smoked salmon, Rasco said that information like that isn’t available, in large part because there aren’t many illnesses of this sort.

“Most people who consume smoked salmon are healthy,” she said. “The elderly and the very young don’t usually want it because of its strong taste and high salt content.”

She also believes that, in general, there’s more paranoia about smoked salmon than is warranted.

“People don’t eat a lot of it, and they usually eat only one or two ounces at a time,” she noted.

When asked about the safety of fish and other meats “back in the old days,” Rasco said that the way it was done then, before refrigeration, called for a lot of salt. As a result, smoked fish (or other meats) were very salty and very dry.

“But we like products that are less salty now,” she said, adding that using the right amount of salt is important when it comes to preventing Listeria and other foodborne pathogens.

For more information and details about safely hot-smoking salmon, refer to the Pacific Northwest Extension’s publication on this topic.

Food Safety News

Listeria in Smoked Salmon: Examining the Risk

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria detected in some ready-to-eat smoked salmon samples sparked a rash of recalls in recent months, with major fish producers such as Ocean Beauty, Marine Harvest and Pacific Seafood Group, plus retail giants including Whole Foods Market, Walmart and Ralph’s, getting caught in the recall net.

But no outbreak of illnesses prompted these companies to voluntarily pull smoked salmon from store shelves.

The uptick in recalls led some to speculate that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might be taking a new get-tough approach targeting Listeria in smoked salmon and stepping up inspections.

smoked salmon on bagel

That wasn’t the case, says FDA spokesman Sebastian Cianci.

“FDA is not currently conducting increased sampling for L. monocytogenes in seafood,” Cianci wrote in an email, adding that it’s possible individual seafood-processing plants or state regulators may have increased the frequency of their inspections.

Whatever the reason for the spate of recalls, repercussions have been worldwide. Undercurrent News, an industry newsletter, reported that Oslo-based Marine Harvest will close its Delifish smoked-salmon operation in Puerto Mont, Chile, this month, in part because a Listeria recall last December cost the company $ 4.4 million.

Delifish decided that “supplying smoked salmon from Chile for the U.S. market is not a business to be in,” an unnamed source told the online publication.

Is Smoked Salmon Safe?

Clearly, the recalls were bad for business, but what are consumers to make of this, especially given that not a single lab-confirmed case of listeriosis was linked to the recalled smoked salmon?

“Smoked fish is pretty safe, especially because it’s typically not consumed by susceptible groups or in large quantities,” said Barbara Rasco, professor in the School of Food Science at Washington State University, an expert on aquatic food and also an attorney.

Rasco thinks smoked salmon is one of the foods regulators have historically scrutinized more than others as a high risk for Listeria contamination.

But FDA wants all food products found to contain Listeria to be recalled, whether or not there has been an associated case of illness.

Since 1989, FDA has stuck to what amounts to a zero-tolerance policy for any detectable level of Listeria in food. By contrast, the European Union tolerates what it says are safe levels – anything less than 100 colony-forming units (CFU) of the bug per gram. It likely takes greater concentrations of the bacterium to constitute an infectious dose, according to Rasco.

Most people don’t get sick when exposed to Listeria, which typically causes a bout of uncomfortable diarrhea. Anyone with a healthy immune system can usually ward off any serious illness.

But if the bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can spread throughout the body and cause listeriosis, a disease Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once called “a terrible infection.” Difficult to detect or cure, listeriosis may start with a fever or stiff neck and then progress to confusion and convulsions, encephalitis and meningitis.

Nearly everyone who gets invasive listeriosis requires hospitalization and a weeks-long course of intravenous antibiotics. Odds are that the disease will kill one out of every five victims, giving it the highest mortality rate of foodborne pathogens.

That’s scary. But CDC’s latest estimates – 1,600 cases of invasive listeriosis and 260 related deaths each year – indicate that Listeria-caused illness is relatively rare in the U.S.

Still, “All these illnesses and deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), during a press briefing in June.

Eradication Efforts Have Stalled

Detailed rules first proposed by FDA in 2001 recommend the steps food producers should take to prevent Listeria contamination, and the agency says this processing-protocols approach to controlling the bug has worked, to a point: About 1.2 percent of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products tested positive for Listeria in 2001, compared with 0.3 percent in 2011 – a 75-percent drop, as Hagen noted in June.

Methods for testing food for Listeria have become more precise and reliable, and genetic fingerprinting developed in the 1990s has helped to identify outbreaks of listeriosis since the disease first became reportable in the 1980s.

But CDC acknowledges there’s been little headway of late in the battle to reduce cases of listeriosis.

“Rates have not budged in more than a decade,” Frieden noted at the June briefing.

Since 2008, Listeria assessment has been a priority of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group, and, this past May, federal food regulators released a 179-page report on Listeria in ready-to-eat foods sold at retail delicatessens.

The report included storage-temperature guidelines and bacterial growth-inhibiting strategies, as well as ways to guard against contamination of incoming products and prevent cross-contamination.

Hagen unveiled the report by saying, “This assessment highlights the importance of our work to prevent Listeria from entering the retail environment in the first place, and provides a significant tool toward this effort to protect consumers and prevent foodborne illness.”

Who Gets Sick? 

Whether Listeria-contaminated food causes illness depends on the virulence and concentration of the strain, the amount eaten and the susceptibility of the consumer to infection, Rasco says.

People most at risk are those suffering from underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, or those with weakened immune systems, such as children or those undergoing cancer treatment.

People 65 and older are four times more likely than the general population to get sick from Listeria poisoning, and pregnant woman are 10 times more likely to be infected. Although a pregnant woman may not develop listeriosis herself, the pathogen can attack her fetus, resulting in miscarriage, preterm birth or stillbirth.

CDC recommends that smoked fish be avoided during pregnancy, along with hot dogs, deli meats and soft cheeses. Nevertheless, the chances are fairly remote that consuming Listeria-tainted food during pregnancy will lead to listeriosis.

Two years ago, during the outbreak of Listeria illness linked to cantaloupes, CDC confirmed 146 cases of listeriosis in 28 states. In this deadliest incidence of foodborne illness since 1924, 30 people died and one woman had a miscarriage.

CDC’s Benjamin Silk, in a video presentation about Listeria, observed: “Thousands of pregnant women consumed the Jensen Farms cantaloupe that caused the 2011 outbreak, but surveillance indicates that the attack rate of listeriosis in pregnant women was extremely low.”

Rasco thinks one reason smoked salmon doesn’t make more people sick is that the high-risk groups don’t eat it. “Kids often don’t like it, and you don’t see it served much in nursing homes or hospitals,” she said.

And, while the popularity of smoked salmon has soared, it still is considered something of a delicacy or a party food. When people consume it, they don’t eat that much of it, Rasco notes.

She says anyone concerned about the safety of smoked salmon should heat it to 145 degrees F before eating it.

Why Smoked Fish?

Listeria has cropped up in myriad raw foods, including sandwiches, leafy greens, cut celery and cantaloupe. According to USDA and FDA risk assessment, those foods at highest risk for the bacterium are soft cheeses, unpasteurized dairy (including raw milk), deli and lunch meats, smoked fish, cold cuts, hot dogs, paté and meat spreads.

Listeria lives mostly in soil, where it feeds on decaying plants, but it is also fairly ubiquitous, turning up in water, vegetation, marine sediments, sewage, animal feed and even dust. It likes damp places, such as a fish-processing plant. It will proliferate in unsanitary conditions. It can colonize drains, cooling systems and processing equipment and harbor there at length.

The bacteria multiplies in temperatures as low as 32 degrees F, so a contaminated food product that leaves the store with a relatively low load of bacteria has the potential to become deadly inside a home refrigerator. Listeria can grow at high salt concentrations, so refrigerated, cured meats and fish can harbor the pathogen.

The bug is relatively more prevalent in smoked seafood, seafood salads, luncheon meats and unpasteurized cheese, according to a study reported in the Journal of Food Protection in 2003.

That study found that 4.3 percent of the smoked seafood it tested was positive for Listeria (compared with 0.17 of the fresh soft cheese).

However, the concentration of Listeria was low in all the foods tested for this study. Only 21 of more than 31,705 food samples analyzed contained more than 100 CFU per gram. Yet, of the samples with more than 100 CFU per gram, nine were smoked seafood.

Keeping It Clean

According to FDA’s Cianci, hot-smoked fish is heated for 30 minutes at 145 degrees F, which is adequate to eliminate L. monocytogenes. But cold-smoked fish does not undergo this thermal process.

Instead, various listericidal agents approved for use in food – antibacterial sprays and rinses, ozonated water, pressure treatment, etc. – can be employed to disinfect fish that will be cold-smoked. The problems tend to crop up after the fish has been cleansed.

Care must be taken, in processing both hot-smoked and cold-smoked salmon, to avoid recontamination before the fish is packaged. A recent study of the smoked salmon industry in Scotland found that, while most processors were using appropriate food-safety practices to prepare their fish, condensation dripping from the ceiling was contaminating the finished product.

If a processor does not use a listericidal control, FDA recommends taking steps to ensure that the fish coming from a supplier is not contaminated in the first place. Insisting that suppliers provide a Certificate of Conformance or a Certificate of Analysis detailing how they sample and test their fish for Listeria would advance that goal, according to Cianci.

“Food processors should audit these suppliers on-site periodically and should test ingredients (e.g. weekly, monthly or quarterly) to verify the absence of L. monocytogenes,” Cianci added.

Essential to eliminating Listeria in commercially smoked salmon is strict adherence to Good Manufacturing Practices, FDA says. That includes designing, constructing and maintaining processing plants and equipment to minimize places where the bacteria can lodge and multiply.

The agency also recommends that smoked-fish processors write and follow a plan to test both fish samples and contact surfaces for Listeria and to address in advance what will be done if the pathogen is discovered.

Food Safety News

DLM Hosts Salmon Sidewalk Sale

DAYTON, Ohio — Dorothy Lane Market is hosting its annual Whole Salmon Sidewalk Sale this Labor Day weekend outside all three stores.

Wild Coho Salmon, which has a delicate flavor, is being flown in overnight from Alaska for the occasion. Each averages five to seven pounds and will be sold from 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday or while supplies last. The salmon will be cut into fillets or steaks at no extra charge.


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In year’s past, DLM has displayed the fish on a slanted ice table and distributed samples of whole salmon stuffed with store-brand herb-vegetable dressing to shoppers entering the store.

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