Russia Says ‘Nyet’ to Norwegian Farmed Salmon


Norwegian farmed salmon has been dealt yet another hammer blow with Russian health authorities classifying it as “dangerous produce” and a “health risk”.  Over the weekend (5 May), Norway’s #1 customer banned imports of fresh Norwegian farmed salmon after “laboratory tests found salmonella and other coliform bacteria”, “poor safety controls” and “repeated instances of microbe pollution.”  This is Russia's third ban on Norwegian farmed salmon since 2005. 

Bloomberg reported yesterday (6 May) that: “Russia on Saturday banned fresh salmon imports from 13 Norwegian producers as the Russian food inspection made “reoccurring findings of produce not consistent with the authority’s standard.”

 
“Russia boycotts Norwegian salmon,” reported the Norwegian newspaper VG (5 May) featuring a photograph of Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg promoting Norwegian farmed salmon on a recent trade visit to Turkey.


Reuters reported (5 May) that “the ban followed repeated instances of microbe pollution.”

Norway’s Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) said it was working with 13 companies affected by the ban to resolve the “very serious” issue.  Norway - whose major salmon producers include Marine Harvest, Cermaq, Salmar and Austevoll - exported more than $5 billion worth of salmon last year, two thirds of it to other European countries.
 
Read more via ‘Russia halts salmon imports from 13 Norwegian firms
 
The Norwegian press agency NTB also distributed the bad news across Norway to over 30 media outlets under the headlines “Russisk laksestopp” (Russian Salmon Stop/Boycott):

And “13 lakseeksportører utestengt fra Russland” (13 salmon exporters banned from Russia):
 

“Norwegian salmon shut out of Russia,” said the headline in the Norwegian newspaper Afterposten (5 May).  “The boycott comes as a result of more cases of infection in fish, said a spokesman for the government on Friday.”    
 

“Norwegian farmed salmon is the most toxic food in Norway,” said Kurt Oddekalv, leader of the Green Warriors of Norway, at a conference in Hardangerfjord on Friday (4 May) attended by Norway’s Fisheries Minister (Lisbeth Berg-Hansen). 
 


"Consumers around the world should rise up in protest against this filthy industry and boycott Norwegian farmed salmon."

Read more via ‘Norway’s Salmon Shame
 
According to the Green Warriors of Norway:
 


Read more via ‘Report on the Environmental Impact of Farming of North Atlantic Salmon in Norway

The Green Warriors of Norway have also produced a new video on the dangers of Norwegian farmed salmon – watch online here:

[Warning: Farmed Salmon is the Most Poisonous Food in Norway!]

“Earlier this year, the Customs Union sent a group of veterinary experts to Norway to examine the acting surveillance system for fish, fish products and sea products exported from that country,” reported Fisheries Information Service (4 May).  “Inspectors found several significant deficiencies, according to the Russian agency.  Due to repeated detections of products that do not conform to the demands of Russia and the Customs union, in consideration to the inspection made in February 2012, and due to an increased risk of unsafe sea products supply, starting 5 May, Rosselkhoznadzor suspends imports of chilled fish into Russia from several companies,” Rosslekhoznadzor wrote.”
 


The 13 companies – representing more than a third of approved exporters - include the Norwegian Government-owned company Cermaq (operating as Mainstream), Viking Fjord, Austevoll and Bremnes Seashore.  On 28 April, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority received a letter from the Russian Veterinary Services announcing that the 13 companies would be temporarily banned from the Russian market on the 5 May. 
 

The letter stated that the reason for exclusion is “repeated discoveries of goods that do not meet the Russian Federation and the Customs Union requirements, and follow-up inspections in February found importation of chilled products to be a health risk.”
 
Read more via ‘Russia Bans More Norwegian Exports’ 
 
“May lose 100 million on salmon boycott,” said the headline in the Norwegian newspaper Trønder-Avisa (4 May) – and that relates to just one of the 13 companies (Nils Williksen AS) banned from the Russian market. 
 

The economic bloodbath is set to continue.  Intrafish reported (3 May) that Russia’s decision to ban imports from 13 Norwegian companies “is just the beginning.”
 

Read more via ‘Researcher: Norwegian Salmon Exporters Face Tough Road to Russia
 
Discussions in Brussels last week failed to avert a ban – with Russia threatening to ban ALL imports of Norwegian fresh fish. 
 

“The Russian delegation was headed by the Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznadzor Eugene Nepoklonov, who severely criticized the entire Norwegian system of veterinary control and warned Mattilsynet and representatives of the Norwegian business that if the Norwegian side will not take systemic measures, Rosselkhoznadzor will impose the restrictions on the supply of fresh fish from all Norwegian enterprises,” said Fish Union in a statement (3 May).  
 
Read more via ‘Union Says Russia Took Hard Tone in Brussels
 
A press release (3 May) issued by the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) stated that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority had failed to provide the “assurance of guaranteed safety of fish products supplied by Norway to the Russian market.”
 

“The move means more than a third of the 35 approved Norwegian exporters to Russia will find themselves shut off from Norway’s largest fresh salmon market,” reported Intrafish (30 April).
 


Read more via ‘Russia Shuts Off 13 Norwegian Salmon Factories
 
Last month (13 April), Reuters reported that Alexei Alekseenko of Russia’s animal and plant health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor had warned of a possible ban “due to poor safety controls.”
 

Read more via ‘Russia May Restrict Salmon Imports from Norway
 
In February, Moscow News reported that: “Norwegian salmon might disappear from Russian supermarket shelves as the “dangerous produce” doesn’t meet the Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus Custom Union’s standards, according to the Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Monitoring Service, or Rosselkhoznadzor.”   
 

“Laboratory tests found salmonella and other coliform bacteria, according to a warning that the head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Yevgeny Nepoklonov, sent to the director general of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, Harald Gjein.  And infected fish has continued to flow into Russia, despite guarantees given by officials, the letter read.”   
 
Read more via ‘Norwegians Warned Over Salmon Standards
 
This is not the first time Russia has banned imports of Norwegian farmed salmon due to health concerns.

In December 2005, Russia banned Norwegian farmed salmon due to “dangerously high levels of cadmium and lead.”  
 


The fish feed company EWOS (a subsidiary of the Norwegian Government-owned company Cermaq) was named as the company responsible for supplying contaminated feed.
 

Reuters reported in January 2006 that shares in Norwegian companies dipped following the news that “Norway's monitoring standards were inadequate.”  According to Reuters, Russian vets found lead 18 times higher and cadmium 3.5 times higher than its safety levels in farmed salmon from four Norwegian fish farms.
 

 
Read more details via a letter to the Norwegian Fisheries Minister online here

In 2006, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet ran an article “Norwegian Farmed Salmon is a Health Hazard” following further revelations of poor food safety.  Dr. Claudette Bethune, who worked at the Norwegian National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), wrote in 2006: As the low-cost and high-volume production of Norwegian farmed salmon may have producers excited, the lack of testing before feed and food enter the food chain, and the lack of scientific knowledge and integrity should have it’s world-wide consumers concerned.”
 

Read more via ‘Norwegian farmed salmon production raises global concern’ 
 
According to Wikileaks, the ban was lifted on two salmon farming producers (Pan Fish and Fresh Harvest) in May 2006. 
 

In October 2011, Russia once again banned Norwegian farmed salmon – this time due to listeria contamination.
 


The Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, reported in November 2011 that: “A ban was imposed late in October on salmon exports of three Norwegian companies after bacterium Listeria had been found in products of Sotra Fiskeindustri AS, Egil Kristoffersen og Sonner AS and Kirkenes Processing AS.”
 

Read more about listeria contamination via ‘Fish Farmageddon: The Infectious Salmon Aquacalypse
 
Norway is not the only country experiencing problems with listeria contamination of farmed salmon.  In 2003, the United States reported listeria contamination in Scottish farmed salmon (in addition to being ‘insanitary’ and ‘filthy’). 
 


In 2009, tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency uncovered listeria contamination in Strubs Norwegian Style Steelhead Salmon.  
 

According to the FDA: “Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a rare and serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. However, listeriosis can be fatal, especially in older people, those with compromised immune systems, and in those with certain chronic medical conditions such as cancer. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill.”
 

 
Norwegian farmed salmon is embroiled in a trade war involving not just Russia but also China.  In 2010, China imposed restrictions on Norwegian farmed salmon which was left to rot in Chinese warehouses. 

“Norway has reported China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in an escalation of a row about fish which has pitted one of Europe's smallest countries against the biggest nation in the world,” reported The Independent in October 2011.  “The Chinese imposed additional import controls on Norwegian salmon last year in apparent retribution for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo to the Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo. The result has been a collapse in sales of salmon to China, and the sight and smell of North Sea fish rotting in Chinese warehouses.”
 
Read more via ‘Norway's salmon rot as China takes revenge for dissident's Nobel Prize
 
John Helmer reported from Moscow in December 2011 that: “Shipments of Norwegian salmon and trout to Russia, the biggest global consumer of Norwegian fish, have been illegally restricted by the Russian government veterinary and phyto-sanitary inspectorate, Rosselkhozdnadzor (RSKN), according to a report by the government’s competition watchdog, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS).”  
 

He also stated that: “Norwegian market fixing for their salmon exports has recently run into a severe embarrassment in China, the largest market for the fish after Russia. There, according to a report in the current issue of Private Eye in London, the government in Beijing has barred imports of Norwegian salmon this year on veterinary control grounds. This reportedly followed the decision by the Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo to make its award last December to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who is currently in prison. The Norwegian fisheries minister, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, was snubbed during her visit to Beijing last December, days after the Oslo prize ceremony.”
 
Read more via ‘The Salmon Sees Red – Russia and China Tell Norway Where to Stick It’s Fish
 
The Chinese ban has seen exports of Norwegian farmed salmon “plunge” and hit companies in Norway hard (like a big fish in the face).    
 

Watch the 'Fish Slapping Dance' online here


More background on Norwegian troubles abroad via ‘Norwegian Blues: Monty Python’s Dead Farmed Salmon

Faced with the chop from the Chinese market, the Norwegian Seafood Export Council even wheeled out the big guns in the shape of karate legend Jackie Chan in a failed attempt to lift the restrictions on Norwegian farmed salmon. 
 


“Norway provides an abundance of good salmon,” said Jackie Chan at a PR event in 2011. “It is without radiation, so there is no need for anyone to worry. Thank you Norway for providing all these good products and a special thanks to the Norwegian Ambassador for joining us.”
 
Read more via ‘Chinese martial arts legend praises Norwegian Salmon at NOBU opening in Beijing
 
Whilst Norway has suffered, Scotland stepped into the gap signing a new trade deal with China in 2011. The Chinese appetite for Scottish farmed salmon has leapt despite evidence of radioactive waste contamination (which Jackie Chan appeared so worried about).   Testing by Greenpeace in 2003 found Technetium-99 (Tc-99) in fresh and smoked salmon bought from supermarkets in the United Kingdom including Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Safeway, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer.
 

Read more via ‘Radioactive Waste Found in Fish
 
Meanwhile, exports of Norwegian farmed salmon are flooding the U.S. market following the lifting of a 24% penalty duty in January 2012.  “Norwegian fisheries minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, a salmon farmer herself, welcomed the decision to lift the tariff, which analysts said had applied only to whole fish rather than filleted or smoked,” reported Reuters (27 January).  “This gives us absolutely an extra opportunity,” said Alf-Helge Aarskog, chief executive of Marine Harvest, the world's largest salmon farmer.
 

In 2010, a formal complaint was filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection against Norwegian farmed salmon for deceptive advertising. 
 
“Farmed salmon are fed an unnatural diet which can contain pesticides, artificial colorings, antibiotics and a man-made industrial diet of feed pellets sourced from fish oil and fish meal which has been shown to be contaminated with PCBs and other chemicals,” wrote the complainants including Chef Rick Moonen.  “Scientific research co-authored by Norwegian scientists at the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) revealed recently that due to contamination with persistent organic pollutants (POPs): “Male rats fed fish oil from farmed salmon developed insulin resistance, obesity and related health issues”
 


Read the complaint in full online here
 
Such is the poor public perception of Norwegian farmed salmon that not even a miracle from Jackie Chan can save Norway’s #1 food export.