Africans in diaspora: Farm-raised Tilapia is a health hazard


By Kevin Onuma,

InformAfrica – Are you one of such Africans in diaspora eating farm raised Tilapia fish? Did you know the bad fat in Tilapia is hazardous to your health? Do you know what farm-raised fish are fed? InformAfrica tells you why farm-raised fish is not a healthy choice.

Farm-raised Tilapia hazardous to health

Farm-raised tilapia fish is not a healthy choice for anyone. (Photo source)

In the US, each time I go to the international supermarket, I often see some (many) Africans constantly buying big fat Tilapia fish, and to them – they feel like they’re getting a good bargain for their money. They have no clue what this big fat farm-raised Tilapias are fed, its unhealthy nutrition, and how dangerous it is to the health.

Tilapia is a popularly produced and consumed fish in America, and I’ve noticed few US government agencies often promoting it as a “healthy source of food”. The fish is also inexpensive. You can buy Tilapia for as low as $1.00 USD per pound in some states, while other states you’ll find them for $1.99 per pound or thereabout.  The Tilapia fish is known in the food business as “aquatic chicken” because it breeds easily and tastes bland, and at times even tastes like mud depending on the environment it was raised in.

Africans living in diaspora such as the US and the UK, should avoid farm-raised fish such as tilapia,  salmon, etc., As far as the fish is labeled “FARM-RAISED”, avoid it. Commercially available Farm-raised fish are often raised in pens and fed soy, poultry litter and hydrolyzed chicken feathers, among other waste produce. As a result of this, farmed-raised fishes are often lower in vitamins and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls), brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane).

What is Tilapia?

Tilapia is a generic term used to designate a group of commercial food fish belonging to the family Cichlidae; the expression is derived from the African native Bechuana word “thiape” meaning fish.  However, true tilapias are native only to Africa and the Middle East. Although the fish is exotic to the United States, populations of tilapia are now established in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas. [1]

Information about Farm-raised Tilapia 

Nile tilapia fish

Nile tilapia fish. (Photo source)

Farm-raised tilapia is one of the most highly consumed and commercially produced fish in the United States. The fish has very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, but very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids.

In a previous study by Wake Forest University School of Medicine, researchers reported that the combination of both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids found in tilapia fish could be a potentially dangerous food source for some patients with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an ‘exaggerated inflammatory response.’ Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract. [2]

They say their research revealed that farm-raised tilapia, as well as farmed catfish, “have several fatty acid characteristics that would generally be considered by the scientific community as detrimental.” Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon, the article says.

Chemicals and Antibiotics in Farm-raised Fish

In a previous study published in Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers suggested that commercially produced tilapia fish which is raised in farms contains arachidonic acid (AA), which causes inflammatory reactions in human body.

Coupled with the high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, the arachidonic acid in tilapia poses heart health risks for people who consume farm-raised tilapias. As a result, a lot of people who are at the risk of certain health conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, are at a higher risk when they eat commercially produced”farm-raised tilapia“.

Farm-raised fish are often laced with antibiotics and drug residues, given that some can cause antibiotic resistance and cancer in people.

One of such antibiotics used in fish-farming is “nitrofuran” which a report on last year say have been banned in the US. “One they have detected is nitrofuran; it has been banned in the United States since 2002, because it causes cancer. The dye malachite green was also found, despite the fact that it’s been banned for food use since 1983 because it is a suspected carcinogen“. [3]

Nitrofurans are antimicrobials/antibiotic drugs widely used in food animal production. Due to concerns about their carcinogenic and mutagenic potentials, they have been banned in many countries. Nirofuran Antibiotics are still available and in use in a number of countries around the world. Nitrofurans have been widely used in the dairy, livestock, poultry and aquaculture production industries.

Africans in diaspora: Farm-raised Tilapia or farm-raised fish in general is hazardous

Believe it or not, any commercially available animal produce that is farm-raised, especially fish in this scenario, could be your worst nightmare if one continues to consume such. The large amounts of antibiotics dumped into the pen where such farm-fish are raised, makes them grow bigger and faster, and are highly dangerous to the health. This explains the abnormally huge size of tilapia fish sold at the seafood section of most supermarkets in the US.

Even the United States Food and Drug Administration, based on a review by, admits the “FDA believes the overall weight of evidence available to date supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health“. [3]

The FDA admits the use of antimicrobial drugs in farm-fishery is not in the interest of protecting or promoting our health? Yet they support and promote the consumption of tilapia as a healthy choice for the public. Now, that is very disturbing. The FDA is also known for notoriously supporting and promoting unnatural (genetic engineering) method of farming, food production, and food processing in America, just to name a few.

In the US, farmers who raise food-producing animals including fish, use about 29 million pounds of antibiotics each year, according to the Food and Drug Administration. That’s about four times as much as doctors prescribe to people.

“Animals are given antibiotics for a number of reasons — including to get them to grow faster,” explains Gail Hansen, a veterinarian who works for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “Antibiotics are given to perfectly healthy animals to convert their food more efficiently so they can get to market faster.”

An article in The Nourishing Gourmet says “Once upon a time, tilapia was breed in a way where most of the fish would be male (which allows the fish to grow larger to a marketable size). However, they soon discovered a nifty little trick. If they put testosterone in their feed for the first few months, they would all turn male. Now, I haven’t read of any adverse health effects from people eating testosterone feed fish. But I find the practice a little disturbing and unnatural.  Not all fisheries use this practice, but it is very common.  Secondly, some fish farms use growth hormones.

Keypoints on why not to eat Farm-raised fish or in this case, Tilapia:

  • Contains Cancer Causing Pollutants
    Farm-raised fish may have at least 10 times the cancer causing pollutants compared to the wild variety. This can most likely be attributed to the feeds used on farm-raised fish. Chicken feces is one of the main ingredients in farm fish feed. Not only that, the transfer of pig and duck waste to fish farms is also a very common practice. Looking at the rate of cancer deaths in the US, especially that of Africans – InformAfrica advises fellow Africans in diaspora to avoid cancer-causing foods at all cost, including farm-raised fish, even if inexpensive.
  • Low Levels of Nutrients or Health Benefits
    The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids (healthy for the brain) is one of the major reasons many people eat fish. However, farm raised fish contains very little to no omega-3 fatty acids compared to wild-caught fish. Commercially produced fish such as tilapia also have lower proteins and other nutrients too. Importantly, the high-levels of omega-6 fatty acids found in farm-raised tilapia is more than enough reason to avoid the fish – completely.
  • Contains Toxic Chemicals
    Dibutylin levels (a toxic chemical used in PVC plastics) is said to be 6 times higher in some farm raised fishes compared to the wild ones from the Atlantic sea. Dibutylin is toxic and can impair immune system function while also contributing to inflammation. Dibutylin could also be the reason why Americans have a rise in asthma, obesity, allergies and other metabolic disorders in the recent years. Another toxic chemical found in farm-raised fish is Dioxin. Previous studies suggest that doxin levels are 11 times higher in farm-raised salmon compared to wild-caught salmon. Dioxin is a very toxic chemical that can contribute to cancer and other complications. [4]
  • Farm-raised Fish Causes Inflammation
    As we mentioned earlier, Wake Forest researchers reported that the combination of both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids found in tilapia fish could be a potentially dangerous food source for some patients with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an ‘exaggerated inflammatory response.’ Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract. So any farm-raised fish with high levels of omega-6 fatty acids potentially causes inflammation. InformAfrica strongly advises fellow Africans in diaspora to avoid eating commercially produced (farm-raised) fish. Wild-caught fish from the sea is a much more healthier choice.

Mercury Levels in Fish

One major concern with fish consumption for quite some time is mercury levels. Mercury is one of the most poisonous metals in existence, and is found in both wild-caught fish and farm-raised fish, including fish coming from contaminated open waters. Other common contaminants in fish (depending on its source) are PCBs, dioxins, pesticides and herbicides. [5]

In case you’re unaware, mercury is a cumulative heavy metal poison that can damage the central nervous system and other organs or organ systems such as the liver or gastrointestinal tract.

Smaller fish have very low levels of mercury compared to big fish that feed on smaller ones. Kevin Onuma find himself informing Africans when shopping at the fish market in the US.

Predatory fish such as shark, king mackerel, albacore tuna, and swordfish have higher levels of mercury compared to small fishes. Why? The reason for the higher concentration found in predator fishes is due to the mercury stored in the muscle tissues of big fish, and when a predatory fish eats another fish, it assumes the entire body burden of mercury in the consumed fish. [5]

In his next informative article, Kevin Onuma promise to write about the types of fish with little levels of mercury, the ones with moderate levels of mercury, and those high in levels of mercury – Africans must be informed.  Such information is important for those watching or careful about their mercury consumption. Mercury is a poison that interferes with the brain and nervous system and can lead to serious health problems. This is why it’s important to know the mercury levels in fish.

In conclusion, farm-raised fish is not a healthy choice for Africans in diaspora, or anyone in general who incorporates fish as part of their regular diet. As you may already know, fish has many health benefits for the body; including but not limited to our brain, skin, hair,  heart, etc., but the type and source of the fish we eat is an important factor to consider in terms of health benefits and side effects.

Farm-raised tilapia and other type of fish that are farm-raised should be avoided due to their adverse side effects on our health, that is the main message of this informative article on InformAfrica. As discussed above, the chemicals and antibiotics used in the breeding of farm fish, including their source of feed, is hazardous to our health and to raise alarm – it causes cancer. For this reason, Africans living in diaspora economies such as the US, are advised (warned) to avoid eating farm-raised (tilapia) fish in order to maintain a healthy life.

This informative health article is filed under: Africa Information


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Reference list:

[1] Culture of Hybrid Tilapia: A Reference ProfileFrank A. Chapman

[2] Popular Farm-raised Tilapia Fish Contains Potentially Dangerous Fatty Acid CombinationWake Forest

[3] Farm-Raised Tilapia, With A Dash Of Antibiotic. – Nancy Shute, NPR

[4] Eating Tilapia is Worse Than Eating BaconDr. Axe

[5] The Best & The Worst Fish For Your HealthGreen and Healthy

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