There are fish whose controversy about the safety of their consumption is propagated beyond the evidence. Tilapia is one of them, but panga or perch also follow. What is the truth?
Although it is true that tilapia complies with all the criteria and consumption controls by health authorities, its origin, far from the Spanish coast, makes it cheaper, less environmentally sustainable and of poorer nutritional quality than other fish. local fish.
Where does the tilapia we eat come from?
The largest producer of tilapia is China as it imports more than 42% of world production. As this is a very high production due to its demand, it is raised in fish farms or inland ponds that promote a very rapid growth of this species but, in turn, a greater contamination by residues of its food and feces.
For this reason, large hatcheries use antibiotics and pesticides to avoid water contamination and base their diet on soybeans instead of wild algae, a fact that greatly compromises their quality and nutritional composition.
Another collateral problem caused by the excessive use of pesticides in tilapa farming is that it can damage marine species around it because debris can be released into the sea. In addition, although it is possible to market it with organic certification, its environmental impact continues to be negative since it comes from distant countries and its distribution continues to be polluting.
Nutritional characteristics of tilapia
It is a low calorie species since 100 grams provide us with about 130 kilocalories. In addition, nutritionally it contains a certain amount of:
- Vitamins B
- Protein content (20 grams in a 100 gram fillet) similar to that of cod (17%) or tuna (23%)
- Fats around 2.6% and a high proportion of omega 6 fat due to the fact that it is a species raised mainly in fish farms with corn rich in this type of acids.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory action), although 10 times less than the omega 3 content of wild salmon.
One of the nutritional aspects that cause controversy about the consumption of tilapia is its mercury content . However, according to a study conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tilapia is the sixth fish that contains the least mercury , equaled by sardines and below salmon and anchovies.
As for its flavor, it is a fairly insipid and neutral fish , therefore, like perch or panga, it is usually served breaded or in stews to add flavor and make it more palatable.
Tilapia, panga and perch
Two other fish that share a certain bad reputation with tilapia are perch and panga . They have all the security guarantees granted by the Ministry of Health, although their production also implies a negative environmental impact since they are not local species.
Specifically, the pangasius is raised in farms in conditions very similar to those of tilapia and is massively imported from Vietnam.
In addition, according to a study carried out by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), in 4 of a total of 23 samples analyzed of pangasius , traces of a herbicide, trifluoroaline , which has been banned in Europe, were found.
On the other hand, no pesticides were found in perch, which occurs in Lake Victoria in Africa. In fact, perch is a fish that is very similar in appearance to grouper, which is why it has been the subject of fraud in some restaurants that used it to replace grouper and at higher prices.
Likewise, unlike tilapia, certain amounts of mercury have been found in panga and perch, although this did not exceed the legal limit of 0.5 mg / kg. However, there are already several collective catering companies that have decided not to include these fish in school canteens since children are one of the populations most at risk for toxicity in mercury ingestion.
What alternatives do we have?
As we have already seen, the main problem with the consumption of tilapia, perch or panga depends on their origin and production, especially in tilapia from China due to its mass cultivation practices that include the use of pesticides and excessive feeding. processed.
However, there are other species of tilapias such as the blue, from the Nile or from Mozambique , from Ecuador or Peru whose growing systems include shallow tanks and freshwater ponds that allow less water pollution and better water quality. fish.
For this reason, it is important that, when we buy this fish in fishmongers or deep-frozen, we pay close attention to the origin of its production.
Finally, it should be noted that, although there is no real risk in the consumption of these species, it would be necessary to include a greater variety of fish in our diet, alternating the consumption of blue fish (sardines, anchovies, horse mackerel …) with white fish (hake, cod, sea bass, etc.) and prioritizing local species as this will be of greater benefit not only to our health but to the local economy and the environment.
What you should know…
- The main problem of tilapia consumption depends on its origin and production, especially in tilapia from China due to its mass cultivation practices that include the use of pesticides and an excessively processed diet.
- For this reason, it is important that, when we buy this fish in fishmongers or deep-frozen, we look closely at the origin of its production.
- Although there is no real risk to health from the consumption of tilapia, it would be advisable to prioritize that of proximity species since this will mean a greater benefit not only for our health but for the local economy and the environment.