A lot of people want to avoid meat and poultry because of the poor living conditions and diets of these animals. They turn to seafood in hopes that there will be better alternatives. Certain types of wild-caught fish exhibit powerful nutrients that aid with muscle-building and improve cognitive performance. Wild-caught tuna, mahi mahi, cod, or salmon provide ample omega-3s, but they can be quite costly. That prompts many people to shop for more affordable fish like tilapia or Swai.
What Is Swai?
Swai has become increasingly popular in the United States within the last couple decades. It’s a freshwater fish that is native to the Mekong lake in Southeast Asia, with most of the extensive fish farming occurring in Vietnam. Most swai that you purchase comes from Vietnam, despite ongoing controversy about their living conditions. There is an incredible demand for seafood, and low prices have lead to seafood mislabelling, i.e. intentional fish fraud. Vietnamese catfish, also known as swai, became labeled as wild-caught snapper, grouper, or cod on menus at restaurants around the United States.
A lot of Americans enjoy swai because it is affordable and doesn’t have a typical fishy taste or smell. It takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings, dressings, or sauces you put on it, and it doesn’t have a very bony structure. These qualities make it attractive to the consumer, but concerns about unsafe practices of fish farming in Vietnam should make you question swai consumption.
Is It Safe To Eat Swai?
If you want the honest truth, then the answer is no. This doesn’t have anything to do with swai’s nutritional content; rather, it’s because of the farming practices and the diet of the fish. The main reasons that you should avoid swai is because of the presence of dangerous microbes, antibiotic use to treat sick fish, and filthy water conditions. Continue reading to learn the primary reasons to stop eating swai.
Fish Farms Are Harmful To Humans And Animals
People establish factory fish farms in the Mekong Delta with very little oversight, if any at all. Untreated wastewater from the fish ponds flows directly into the river. The water in these ponds contains feces, chemicals, medicine, and other pathogens from the river’s natural ecosystem. This negatively affects wildlife that inhabit the river downstream from the ponds. For many people in that region, the Mekong is the primary source of drinking water. The river is naturally polluted, and the harmful waste from the fish farms leads to further contamination.
Heavy Antibiotic Use During Production
Think of fish farms like crowded hen houses, where the the risk of infectious diseases in fish increases. One study found that 70-80% of swai samples exported to Poland, Germany, and Ukraine contained Vibrio bacterium. This is a common microbe that is involved in shellfish food poisoning in people. A separate study of imported seafood found that swai frequently exceeded drug residue limits. Vietnam has the greatest number of drug residue violations among the countries that export swai. There was a recall of 84,000 pounds of frozen swai filets imported from Vietnam because they failed to meet U.S. requirements that test fish for drug residues. Even with proper inspection and antibiotic and other drug residues being below the legal limit, the frequent use of antibiotics can promote antibiotic resistant bacteria in swai.
Fish Mislabeling And Fraud
In addition to the high sodium content and antibiotic presence in swai, there is a lot of fish mislabeling that surrounds it. Many people like to consume swai because of the price, but restaurants commonly mislabel it and sell it as more expensive fish like grouper, sole, and flounder. A report by Oceana indicates that swai was one of the top-three types of fish most commonly substituted for higher-value fish. Oceana included 200 sources confirming this fact in its report. Researchers found that all but one study in this report recorded evidence of seafood fraud. Lastly, in 58% of cases, the samples substituted for other types of fish posed health risks to consumers.