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Salmon: red for danger?

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That lovely, red-toned salmon filet at your supermarket may not come by its good looks naturally

That lovely, red-toned salmon filet at your supermarket may not come by its good looks naturally. Wild salmon get their pink color from carotenoids, natural pigments found in plants, algae, and other foods. Two synthetically-produced carotenoids-astaxanthin and cantaxanthin-are often fed to farmed salmon, which would otherwise be pale grey.

The aquaculture industry points out that these colourants are approved and safe, but consumers behind a class-action lawsuit in the US disagree.

Three of that nation's largest grocery chains are being sued for failing to adhere to regulations that require labels on artificially coloured farmed salmon. Claimants say that this misleads consumers into believing they're buying wild stock and protecting the environment from problems associated with aquaculture.

Those behind the lawsuit also claim the artificial colours are linked to damage to the human retina-one reason the European Union has limited their use in fish farming.

Canada, meanwhile, has no salmon labelling regulations, leaving it up to shoppers to ask, "Is it farmed or is it wild?" The same goes for dining out: if salmon is a fixed menu item, it's likely farmed. Many pat?also contain farmed varieties. The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) notes that some types of Pacific salmon aren't farmed-sockeye, chum, and pink-so ask for those.

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