Just as XL Foods Inc. plant is resuming operations — with extra inspectors on hand for good measure — following a major beef recall, Sobeys is trying to reassure Canadians that the sea lice found on Atlantic salmon in its Maritimes stores is nothing to worry about.
Sobeys discovered sea lice on about a dozen whole Atlantic salmon on store shelves after B.C. activist and biologist Alexandra Morton posted photos of some affected fish on Facebook and launched a campaign against the sale of the fish.
"We are finding lice on the majority of farmed salmon," Morton said. "We don't know where the fish is from."
The chain voluntarily removed 84 whole-farmed salmon and confirmed that some of the fish did contain sea lice, CBC News reports.
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The grocery chain is currently reviewing quality control with the supplier and has not yet returned whole salmon to its shelves.
The source of the fish has not been identified.
"We're currently reviewing all the related quality-control issues with the wholesaler and expect to have whole Atlantic salmon back on the shelves in the not-to-distant future," Cynthia Thompson, with Sobeys Inc. in Stellarton, said in an interview. "We, of course, urge any consumer experiencing any sort of quality control issue with any product in any of our stores to contact us as soon as possible."
Sea lice "are naturally occurring in the marine environment" and can affect both farmed and wild salmon and, while not appetizing to look at, are not harmful to humans. The lice are typically removed before the fish arrive in stores.
"Health Canada says sea lice are only found on the outside of the fish and not in the flesh itself, thus not affecting the quality of the meat," Global News reports.
Bruce Hancock, the executive director of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, reassures Canadians that the voluntarily removal of the whole salmon is not nearly as alarming as it sounds:
"We have to put this in context," he said. "What they removed from the shelves were whole salmon. It amounted to slightly more than 80 fish in all their stores, so it was hardly a major recall."
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Larry Hammell, a professor of aquaculture health management at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, says the removal was complete unnecessary and considers Morton's campaign a "scare tactic."
"There is absolutely no human health concern associated with them (sea lice)…there is no reason scientifically to remove these salmon from the shelves," said Hammell.
After the beef recall — and now the lice-ridden salmon — are you more hesitant to trust the food-inspection industry?