Chile Groups Say Tainted Salmon Could Be Sold
SANTIAGO, Chile A cargo of farmed Chilean salmon tainted with a potentially harmful toxin and rejected for import in Europe has returned to Chile and could be re-exported to a country with less stringent laws, consumer and environmental groups warned.
This is the latest in a series of tainted shipments that has Chile's $1.15 billion-a-year salmon industry on the defensive. Fish and fish products are one of Chile's top exports.
Health authorities in Holland rejected a container bound for France which was packed with 20 tonnes of frozen salmon in August after detecting the fungicide malachite green, which is used to control molds that kill the eggs of farmed fish.
The use of malachite green, which can cause cancer, is prohibited in many parts of the world. Chile banned it in 2002.
Earlier this year Holland rejected a different 180-tonshipment of salmon for the same reason and environmental group Ecoceanos says part of that shipment was later sold in Estonia.
"The food has to be destroyed, because it is contaminated and cannot be consumed," said Juan Carlos Cardenas, a veterinarian and director of Ecoceanos.
Chilean government health officials in southern Chile, where the container now sits, confirmed Holland's findings and outlawed the sale of the salmon in Chile. However, they said it was up to the company to decide whether to sell it elsewhere or have it destroyed.
"We have control of the container and the company must decide if it re-exports it to a country without these limitations," said health ministry official Yuri Carvajal in a statement on Friday.
Officials at a salmon producers association contacted by Reuters were not immediately available for comment.
The government has not identified the companies that produced the fish.
Chile exported $820 million worth of salmon and trout to world markets in the first half of 2004, mainly to the United States and Japan.
Chilean salmon farmers said in January their fish were among the safest to eat and contained low levels of potentially harmful chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, dioxins and others -- compared to their North American counterparts.