Norway assures farmed salmon safe to savor raw

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Norway's reputed safood industry has once again affirmed Hong Kong consumers that farmed salmon, a long-time favorite in the city, is safe to eat raw because the entire industry ensures the fish is free of parasites.

Farmed Norwegian salmon is exempt from European Union freezing requirements.

Norway is the largest salmon supplier to Hong Kong, where salmon is the most preferred seafood and Norway is the preferred country of origin for salmon.

Norway exported more than 16,000 tons of fresh salmon to Hong Kong in 2018, an increase of 27 percent over 2017.

Dr. Lise Rokkones, Director of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s Seafood Section, which oversees the salmon supply chain, said in Hong Kong today: “Our science-based approach to food safety relies on independent reports and risk assessment, legislated risk management, and a complex system of controls that regulates everything from fish feed ingredients and veterinary medicinal products to fish roe incubation, landing processes, transport conditions, and export partners. This allows us to ensure the quality of every bite of Norwegian salmon for food-lovers here in Hong Kong.”

She outlined the strict regulation and monitoring of the seafood supply chain at a seminar hosted by the Norwegian Seafood Council. The Norwegian Seafood Council is a public company owned by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

“The Norwegian farmed salmon industry is monitored according to strict European Union regulations. Norwegian salmon is fully traceable and fish farms are inspected every year, with thousands of samples taken with no unacceptable contaminants or residues of veterinary drugs ever found,” Dr. Rokkones said.

Dr. Arne Levsen, Senior Scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, the largest such marine institute in Europe, said studies by both the Institute of Marine Research and the European Food Safety Authority independently show that salmon farmed in Norway for human consumption does not contain parasites.

“The level of scientific certainty is so strong that farmed Norwegian salmon is exempt from EU freezing requirements. Other raw fishery products must undergo freezing treatment at -20°C for not less than 24 hours or at -35°C for not less than 15 hours to ensure they are parasite-free,” Dr Levesen said.

He said Norwegian salmon are fed an approved fish feed diet that contains optimal vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The feed is heat-treated to kill parasites and cleaned to remove environmental contaminants such as heavy metals.

Victoria Braathen, Norwegian Seafood Council Director of mainland China and Hong Kong markets, said Norway takes its responsibility as a seafood supplier to Hong Kong seriously. “Our 2019 study reveals that salmon is not only Hong Kong’s most popular seafood, with a great taste and health benefits, but also that consumers here are extremely discerning. In fact, 87 percent of Hong Kong consumers say that salmon’s country of origin is important and 93 percent rate Norwegian salmon as good to excellent.”

Gustav Solvang, Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beijing, underscored the value that Norway puts on its relationship with Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong and Norway are closely linked by a joint interest in seafood. A comprehensive free trade agreement between Norway/ EFTA and Hong Kong has established a predictable and efficient framework for seafood trade. When it comes to salmon, we hold a particularly strong position in Hong Kong thanks to long-term collaboration between local partners and the Norwegian seafood industry. We are proud to provide quality salmon products to consumers in Hong Kong and around the world,” Solvang said. 

In a survey this year, 34 percent of Hong Kong people said salmon was the top seafood preference when eating out, ahead of prawn, lobster and sable fish (silver xue yu), each of which polled 7 percent. More than half of Hong Kong people (55 percent) would select salmon from Norway as their first choice.