WELLNESS-Up until recently, Costco was sourcing 90 percent of the salmon it purchased from Chilean salmon farms. Every week that added up to roughly 600,000 pounds of salmon. The problem is that these Chilean fish farms have been upping their use of antibiotics by 25 percent in response to Piscirickettsiosis (or SRS) bacteria. Since 2013 there has been a surge in SRS bacteria found in the coastal waters off Chile causing a spike in disease-laden fish. American consumers are ever increasingly concerned about drug resistant superbugs, which has put the squeeze on Costco to source from the lesser drug doling Norwegian farms instead.
SRS was first reported in 1989 and since then scientists have developed a better understanding of this bug. This particular bacterium affects a variety of cells in salmon and causes inflammation in the fish’s organs and brain. Initial diagnoses can be obtained by spotting lesions on the fish and erratic swimming patterns due to the bacteria attacking the brain.
While the use of antibiotics can control the bacteria in the short term, it is proving to be a losing battle against SRS causing fish farmers to administer more and more drugs. The Salmon farmers in Chile have had to boost their antibiotic use, and in 2014 they used over 1 million pounds of antibiotics to produce 895,000 pounds of fish. The FDA said it has "concerns about the improper use of medically important antibiotics in food products derived from animals, as this practice is one factor that can contribute to antimicrobial resistance in humans."
In response to this epidemic, Costco has begun to source 60 percent of its salmon from Norway and has dropped down to only 40 percent from Chile in 2014. This has cost the Chilean farmers tens of millions of dollars. Brazil on the other hand imports 3.6 million kilograms of salmon each year from Chile. With concern for cost superseding the real threat of a superbug epidemic, Brazil has no plans of curbing their appetite for affordable Salmon purchased from nearby Chilean providers. Costco on the other hand is moving forward with deep cuts in Chilean Salmon and huge increases in Norwegian purchased salmon.
To battle Piscirickettsiosis (or SRS) bacteria, which causes hemorrhaging, swollen kidneys and spleens, and ultimately death in infected fish, Chilean farmers are using ever increasing amount of antibiotics to try and keep their fish stock healthy. Concerns about drug-resistant superbugs have led many American consumers to seek out antibiotic-free products.
With an estimated 2 million people being infected with superbugs a year in the US alone and 23,000 of them dying, drug resistant superbugs are a grave concern. In spite of the fact that there are many more people dying of cancer each year in the US, some experts speculate that death by drug resistant superbugs could overtake the cancer statistics in the next 10 years.
Vol 13 Issue 62
Pub: Jul 29, 2015