By Julie Wilson
The biggest seller of organic foods has decided to greatly reduce the number of antibiotic-treated salmon it purchases from Chile, a move that’s expected to a deliver a huge financial blow to the aquaculture industry.
Costco recently announced that they will no longer be buying the majority of its salmon from Chile, the world’s second largest producer of the fish, following an increase in consumer awareness regarding the dangers associated with the widespread use of antibiotics.
The extensive use of human drugs on farmed animals, including fish, is contributing to an increase in superbugs, or microorganisms that have grown resistant to antibiotics, posing a severe threat to humans, as these types of infectious diseases are more difficult to treat. Costco drastically cuts farmed salmon purchases from Chile. Previously purchasing about 90 percent of its salmon from Chile, the membership-only warehouse says it will now buy just 40 percent from the South American exporter as they look to Norway (the world’s largest salmon producer) to supply the majority of their demand.
Over the last few years, Wal-Mart, Wegmans and Safeway have also reduced purchases of Chilean salmon. For eight years, Chile has been struggling to contain the spread of a virus that is killing millions of fish; in response to this and widespread bacterial disease, Chilean farmers have turned to antibiotics in order to keep their fish stock alive despite unsanitary conditions. In 2008, Chile used nearly 350 times more antibiotics on its farmed salmon than Norway, its chief competitor.
Industry officials say this is because Norway has developed vaccines to protect their salmon against illnesses, a development that Chile has been unable to achieve due to a lack of funding. Under a new “information access law,” Chile’s government, for the first time, revealed information detailing its use of antibiotics in salmon production following a request by the environmental group Oceana.