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Chilean salmon spark human health concerns

11 January 2019, at 9:31am

Although farmed salmon doesn’t contain antibiotics when sold, the salmon farming sector - particularly in Chile - may be contributing to antibiotic resistance, according to a leading marine NGO.

Oceana has voiced its concerns that; “Even though the salmon sold in Chile and in main export markets such as the United States, Japan and Brazil, does not contain traces of antibiotics, the problem of resistance remains in the areas [of Chile] where it is produced, meaning in regions Los Lagos and Aysén, where salmon farm employees and residents in nearby locations are the first to be potentially affected.”

Antibiotic use in the Chilean salmonid farming sector - largely to combat SRS - dwarves that of other regions
Antibiotic use in the Chilean salmonid farming sector - largely to combat SRS - dwarves that of other regions

Using an animated video the organisation has warned about the effects that bacterial resistance could have on health. This natural phenomenon has increased due to the excess use of antibiotics in humans and the animal industry and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it will become the primary cause of death in the world by 2050 if immediate measures aren’t taken.

“WHO clearly established that the inappropriate use of antibiotics in animal production can contribute to bacterial resistance,” said Javiera Calisto, marine pollution campaign director at Oceana. “The salmon industry is the one that most uses antibiotics in Chile, which is why demanding significant and immediate reductions of this medication is urgent.”

“We call out to national and international consumers to become aware and informed on the way different Chilean salmon companies produce what they take to your table. To do so, it’s important for the industry to be more transparent on the amount of antibiotic used in their production,” she added.

In October 2018 Oceana Chile organised the international seminar Salmon farming and antibiotics: risks to human health, where experts on bacterial resistance and salmon farming from the United States, Norway and Chile agreed that the excess use of antibiotics in salmon production contributes to increase bacteria’s resistance to this medication, potentially affecting human health.

Bacterial resistance is the ability of bacteria to survive the action of antibiotics, a process that is now faster because of this medicine’s inappropriate use. Bacteria can become resistant through natural gene mutations, but this has increased due to the selective pressure exercised by antibiotics, or through the acquisition of resistant genes from another already resistant microorganism which can be transmitted to humans through food, the environment and direct human-animal contact.

 

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A bill is currently in Congress and will be discussed in upcoming weeks, aiming to have information regarding antibiotic use be made public by Serncapesca, and provided separately by salmon producing company and their breeding farms.

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