Foreign substances and the use of medicines

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs

State monitoring programmes document that it is safe to eat farmed salmon. The National Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) analyses several thousand samples from farmed salmon every year. The 2012 results, based on samples from about 11,600 fish, show that the content of foreign substances is at the same level as those found in mackerel and herring.

State monitoring programmes document that it is safe to eat farmed salmon. The National Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) analyses several thousand samples from farmed salmon every year. The 2012  results, based on samples from about 11,600 fish, show that the content of foreign substances is at the same level as those found in mackerel and herring.

The total content of dioxins (from 2002) and dioxin-like PCB (from 2006), as well as non-dioxin-like PCB, shows a slightly decreasing trend, while heavy metals have a stable and low trend. The concentrations are low compared to the thresholds set by the authorities. Thus, it is as safe to eat farmed salmon as it is to eat fatty wild fish.

The level of foreign substances in farmed salmon generally reflects what the fish eat. To monitor the safety of aquaculture feed, the Food Safety Authority has a dedicated monitoring program for foreign substances in fish feed that also includes feed ingredients. The feed report for 2011 can be found here. Due to the recent developments in the fish feed sector, specifically the growing number of alternative raw materials, this program is now under evaluation. 

In the late 1990s, Norway introduced an extensive monitoring system to ensure that farmed fish for consumption does not contain residues of legal or illegal pharmaceuticals in harmful concentrations. The system is based on the control and registration of pharmaceutical use, the establishment of withdrawal periods to ensure that the fish cannot be harvested until after a specified time after stopping the medication, and analysis of pharmaceutical residues in farmed fish. The Norwegian system for the control of pharmaceuticals and pollutants in farmed salmon complies with EU regulations, and is in line with international guidelines in the area and is monitored and revised by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA). In the past decade, residues of illegal pharmaceuticals have only been found once (chloramphenicol), and residues of legal pharmaceuticals have never been found above EU threshold values for food safety. NIFES' 2012 report on foreign substances in farmed fish is available here .

 The use of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals in Norwegian aquaculture 

The sale and use of antibiotics for farmed fish is very low when seen in the context of the amount of farmed fish being produced. The authorities have monitored pharmaceutical residues since 1989. All pharmaceuticals that are distributed for use in aquaculture must have a prescription from a veterinarian or an authorised fish health biologist, and are registered by the Food Safety Authority. This provides an overview of the locations at which fish have been given drugs, the kind and amount of drugs that have been used, and when the fish were treated.

The National Health Institute prepares overviews of the consumption of pharmaceuticals in Norwegian aquaculture.

The use of pharmaceuticals in Norwegian aquaculture 2003-2012 (Norwegian language) 

The use of remedies to counter salmon lice has increased significantly in recent years. This is partly due to the use of new substances that are less potent (require higher concentrations) and partly due to the authorities requiring aquaculture facilities to be nearly free of salmon lice in order to protect wild salmon in the period young salmon (smolt) migrate from the rivers to the sea.