8. Imported Basa/Swai/Tra/Striped Pangasius (Often Labeled “Catfish”)
These are popping up as trendy new menu items all over America, but what you’re likely getting is a fish called pangasius or swai fish, a fish that wholesales for $2 a pound. (25) I consider this the #1 filthiest fish on the menu.
A 2016 study found 70 to 80 percent of pangasius samples were contaminated by Vibriobacteria
— the microbes behind most cases of shellfish poisoning. Raw or
undercooked pangasius, the authors warned, could pose a hazard to consumers. (26)
Beyond the ick factor, these pangasius ponds in Vietnam have given
birth to “the most intensive and productive food production system on
earth.” Aside from destroying important river life and wetlands, this
fish factory farming method results in fish swimming in waste and
sludge. They’re also treated with a broad range of antibiotics, in
addition to pesticides and disinfectants.
The antibiotics used include several that are characterized as
critically and highly important for human health according to the World
Health Organization (WHO). In 2017, Europe rejected at least 17
pangasius shipments due to nitrofuran antibiotic residues. (27) All of this antibiotic abuse makes the issue of stopping superbugs that much harder.
The U.S. isn’t immune, either. In fact, an August 2016 report shows a
U.S. catfish inspection agency recently turned away 40,000 pounds of imported catfish due to contamination issues. This includes fish testing
positive for malachite green, a veterinary drug used to treat sick
In other imported “catfish” crackdown news, the owner Virginia Star
and International Sea Products was actually sentenced to five years in
prison in 2015 for importing $15.5 million worth of pangasius “catfish”
and marketing it as sole, grouper, flounder, snakehead, channa and
conger pike, a type of eel. DNA tests revealed that the frozen fish was in fact Pangasius hypophthalmus, a fish in the catfish family marketed under approved trade names including swai or striped pangasius. (29 often sold preserved in tons of salt, so be sure to soak it and rinse well before cooking and eating to reduce sodium levels.
(Note, Monterey Bay’s other seafood guides are factoring in
sustainability, but not necessarily contaminants that could impact your
The fish that fit this healthiest fish bill are:
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
When you choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon, you get to enjoy the true salmon health benefits.
Pacific SardinesSardines nutrition serves
as one of the highest omega-3 fatty acid sources on the planet. Because
it’s a fish lower on the food chain, contaminate levels are low.
This oily fish is also high in health omega-3s. Mackerel