October 22, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Food Dyes

I was trying to think of things that are artificially dyed red and salmon came to mind.

Farmed salmon would be gray without the dye they are fed because they don't eat their natural ocean diet of krill.

I know some other meats are dyed red to make them look more appetizing to people.

What are these dyes made of?

-- Kristin

Via the blog

For the most part, farmed salmon are simply fed synthetic versions of two pigments of the carotenoid family -- astaxanthin and canthaxanthin.

Wild salmon take in the naturally occuring versions of these carotenoids by virtue of their aquatic diet.

Farmed salmon -- subsisting mainly on grains and corn -- need these dyes added to their feed so they can have a pleasing rosy color.

This is mostly done for aesthetic purposes.

Would you be interested in taking home a filet of salmon that was completely gray? No, you wouldn't. And salmon farming companies know this very well.


Kristin said...

Are these synthetic dyes harmful? I googled astaxanthin and I found a website talking about how it's an antioxidant and prevents cancer and is necessary for the healthy growth of the farmed salmon. Surely that can't be true.

Laura M. said...

Kristin, your research on astaxanthin is absolutely true. This is an antioxidant that is necessary for the healthy growth of farmed salmon. Unfortunately there is so much negligent and false information on the internet that it makes people afraid of farmed salmon and leaves out the reasoning behind using this carotenoid. I urge you to do some research and learn the truth, farmed salmon is fed astaxanthin because it is a vital nutrient that the salmon would die if not consumed, there has never been any scientific data linking astaxanthin to any human health issue. On the contrary, the institute of medicine researched a list of seafood ranking farmed salmon as the highest in omega 3 and the safest choice for low mercury content (www.iom.edu, seafood choices study) I hope this info helps. Laura Mc.

Andy Bellatti said...


Farmed salmon is not as pristine as you claim.

Due to overcrowding and, consequently, unsanitary conditions, farmed salmon have often times been behind listeria contamination in humans.

From an environmental standpoint, salmon farms do plenty of damage, as they expel a lot of waste into water systems.