Oceana’s new campaign warns about salmon farming’s potential risks to human health

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By Milthon Lujan

Santiago, Chile.- Using an animated video, marine conservation organization Oceana warned about the effects that bacterial resistance could have on health. This natural phenomenon has increased due to the excess use of antibiotics in humans and the animal industry and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it will become the primary cause of death in the world by 2050 if immediate measures aren’t taken.

“WHO clearly established that the inappropriate use of antibiotics in animal production can contribute to bacterial resistance”, said Javiera Calisto, Marine Pollution Campaign Director at Oceana. “The salmon industry is the one that most uses antibiotics in Chile, which is why demanding significant and immediate reductions of this medication is urgent”, she added.

According to WHO, bacterial resistance will be a primary global health problem, even more so than cancer and causing some medical procedures such organ transplants, c-sections, chemotherapy and the treatment of diabetes to become very high-risk procedures. Currently, over 700,000 people die due to antibiotic resistant infections, but this number is expected to increase to more than 10 million by 2050.

Even though the salmon sold in Chile and in main export markets such as the United States, Japan and Brazil, does not contain traces of antibiotics, the problem of resistance remains in the areas where it is produced, meaning in regions Los Lagos and Aysén, where salmon farm employees and residents in nearby locations are the first to be potentially affected.

“We call out to national and international consumers to become aware and informed on the way different Chilean salmon companies produce what they take to your tables”, stated Calisto. “To do so, it’s important for the industry to be more transparent on the amount of antibiotic used in their production”, she added.

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It should be noted that during October 2018, Oceana Chile organized the international seminar “Salmon farming and antibiotics: risks to human health”, where experts on bacterial resistance and salmon farming from the United States, Norway and Chile agreed that the excess use of antibiotics in salmon production contributes to increase bacteria’s resistance to this medication, potentially affecting human health.

Bacterial resistance is the ability of bacteria to survive the action of antibiotics, a process that is now faster because of this medicine’s inappropriate use. Bacteria can become resistant through natural gene mutations, but this has increased due to the selective pressure exercised by antibiotics, or through the acquisition of resistant genes from another already resistant microorganism which can be transmitted to humans through food, the environment and direct human-animal contact.

A bill is currently in Congress and will be discussed in upcoming weeks, aiming to have information regarding antibiotic use be made public by Serncapesca, and provided separately by salmon producing company and their breeding farms.


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