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By Pauli PoisuoCracked

When you think of salmon in the wild, you’re usually imagining a bunch of strong, determined fish swimming upward through a waterfall, maybe while getting chased by bears. It’s the blood rushing through the powerful salmon’s veins that makes its flesh so pink and healthy as a bastard — by devouring it, you also absorb its strength and the spirit of the untamed Alaskan wilderness.

The Horror:

At least, that used to be how it worked. The salmon you eat today has never swum a single damn inch upstream. Instead of the Alaskan wilderness, today’s salmon only contain the spirit of the cramped, overcrowded salmon farms in which they spent their entire lives. Because the fish can’t move much and their diet consists entirely of aquarium pellets, the salmon that arrives at your local Safeway is as grey as a British winter.

So how do they recapture the soul of Alaska? They pump the salmon full of pink dye, obviously. The pellets they feed to those aquatic prisoners are infused with a line of coloring agents developed by the pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche and selected according to a color fan. That’s right — just like the ones you use to choose the color of your wall paint from the hardware store.

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This is no small-scale stuff, either. About 95 percent of Atlantic salmon is currently farmed, and pretty much all of it is dyed.

Of course, salmon is not the only thing in your grocery basket that isn’t really the color you think it is. Remember Perdue chicken, Frank Perdue’s famous poultry with the “healthy, golden color”? Turns out that the healthy, natural color was achieved with a mix of marigold petals and dyes. In the baked goods corner we have wheat bread, which is often dyed darker with brown sugar or molasses to make it appear more healthy. The peculiarly orange hue of cheddar cheese is also a careful mix of coloring agents, because the natural color of cheese batches varies, and being faced with variation reduces regular shoppers to confused and aggressive beasts.

For the red-meat lovers out there, rest assured that your hamburger and sausage meat is often dyed to a more appetizingly red hue that can cause cancer. But hell, who wants to eat slightly inconsistent-looking food?

This article excerpt was written by Pauli Poisuo and published in Cracked on June 18, 2012. Photo by JacquePulsfus/ Flickr.

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2 thoughts on “Your Salmon Is Dyed Pink”

  1. I hope the colour they add to the farmed salmon’s food is natural and without side effects for consumers. That could well be the case, however (as with all commercially farmed food) I would be more concerned about what else is in those pellets. An informed guess would be – GM soy, GM corn, preservatives and possibly some kind of antibiotics.

    As far as processed meat goes, they usually don’t add colour to it as the meat is already red. They do add nitrites however to preserve that colour – and they are certainly not good for you. With most kinds of ham they will also add nitrates to make the meat hold more water and seem juicier.

  2. The coloring that farmed salmon has comes from carotenoids (a natural pigment)and/or krill that is in their feed. Yes, the carotenoids can be synthetic, yes, in extremely large doses there can be a deposit of pigment on the retina, leading to possible damage. But the damage is reversed once you stop ingesting the canthaxanthin. (sort of like turning orange from eating beaucoup carrots which contain carotenoids. That’s why they are orange). Atlantic salmon is endangered, and there is a fishing moratorium from canada to chile on commercial salmon fishing. Pollution of fresh water streams/rivers, and man-made blocking of the Atlantic salmons re-entrance to fresh water to spawn from the ocean has depleted the population, hence the farms. Dye is *not* added to the fish after it has been processed. It’s in their food. It’s orange when it’s killed, it’s orange when it arrives at the supermarket.

    You cannot lump Atlantic and Pacific salmon into the same category, which you seem to be doing. Alaska has one of the most stringent fishing/wildlife programs in the world. Sockeye salmon season starts and ends on the dot, and to the hour. It’s based upon the salmon population that year. It can vary from year to year, but it’s usually fairly short. So is Coho season, which follows Sockeye.

    Yes…there is “artificial” coloring in cheddar cheese, but read the label – most of the time it is annatto, or even tumeric. Annatto is natural and comes from the fruit of the achiote tree. Some processed cheeses may have dyes, but again…be an informed consumer and read your labels!

    And how can you say that wheat bread is dyed? Molasses is unrefined sugar – it’s dark brown. Wheat flour is darker in color than white. Of *course* the bread is going to be darker, and it’s not by any means that is going to harm the consumer.

    Ground beef is naturally red in color. However, it can turn greyish brown in the absence of oxygen, which is why when you break open the meat, the inside is a different color. It’s not dye, it’s just nature. I believe you may be speaking about a dye called Red 2G, which is only used in the UK to my knowledge.

    Please, please please…be informed, not misinformed. Know your facts.

    I am not a “big business” advocate. I eat 90% organic, and about 50% local. I choose not to eat *any* industrially raised animal product, that’s just me, for my personal & health reasons. But this article exaggerates some facts and may mislead some less informed consumers.

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