I have a friend who eats tilapia a few times a week. She thinks it’s the cleanest fish to eat, but it’s not. Almost all tilapia is farmed, which means unless you catch it yourself it’s farmed. You won’t find wild tilapia in any grocery store or restaurant menu. If you eat a lot of fish and other seafood, it’s highly likely that you are eating something that was raised thousands of miles away. Some tilapia found on the market is raised in China. The FDA only inspects about 2.7 % of imported food, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
- Recent studies have reported that farm-raised tilapia may cause inflammation. This can lead to heart disease, asthma, arthritis and other health problems.
- Farmed fish may contain at least 10 times the amount of cancer causing pollutants compared to the fish caught in the wild. This is likely attributed to their diets. Farmed tilapia is feed a diet of GMO corn, soy pellets, chicken, duck and pig feces. In a natural environment, tilapia would eat algae and lake plants.
- Farm-raised fish have found to have higher concentrations of antibiotics and pesticides. The conditions of fish farms are so overcrowded the fish are susceptible to disease. To keep the fish alive until they are sold, they are given antibiotics. Pesticides are also used to treat the fish. Just like United States meat farmers, fish farmers rely heavily on antibiotics. Testifying before Congress in 2008, then FDA deputy director of food safety Don Kraemer said:
As the aquaculture industry continues to grow, concern about the use of unapproved drugs and unsafe chemicals in aquaculture operations has increased significantly. There is clear scientific evidence that the use of unapproved antibiotics and other drugs and chemicals, such as malachite green, nitrofurans, fluoroquinolones, and gentian violet, can result in the presence of residues in the edible portions of aquacultured seafood.
- Farmed fish have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 acids found in farm-raised fish are less usable than those caught in the wild.
- Dioxin levels are 11 times higher in farm-raised fish. Dioxin is a toxic chemical that can cause skin lesions, darkening of the skin, altered liver function, impairment of the immune system, nervous system, endocrine and reproductive function.
One time I was at a popular Asian market where all the restaurants in town bought their “fresh” fish and other meats. I saw some live fish that were crowded in a tiny tank, they seemed miserable and were gasping for air. Their eyes were cloudy and they looked like they were dying. That was all I needed to see to decide that fish would never be on my plate again, and that was years before I became vegan.
My best advice would be to eliminate fish, seafood, and animal products from your diet. There are vegan items that you can find at the grocery store to replace them, but most of them are processed and fried so they are only good as transitional foods.