Tell Ducktrap: Stop Falsely Claiming Your Smoked Atlantic Salmon Is 'All Natural'

How likely is it that a consumer buying Ducktrap River of Maine “All Natural” smoked Atlantic salmon would have any idea that the salmon in that product was raised on chemicals and antibiotics, in an industrial fish farm nowhere near Maine—and in some cases, nowhere near the Atlantic?

Not very, we think. 

But Mowi, the Norway-based owner of the Ducktrap brand, is counting on claims like “All Natural,” “Made in USAand “our approach to fish health and welfare is “second to none” to help the company sell more product.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ducktrap: Stop falsely claiming that your smoked Atlantic salmon is “All Natural.”

After you use this form to send a message, call Ducktrap’s customer service line at 1-800-434-8727

Questions or concerns about false and misleading “natural” claims? Email us at fraud@organicconsumers.org

salmon appetizer with a package of Ducktrap River of Maine smoke salmon

Commercial fishing of Atlantic salmon—a species once abundant in the wild but now nearly extinct—is prohibited in the U.S. 

In the Gulf of Maine, Atlantic salmon are even protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Similarly, in Canada, wild Atlantic salmon in the Bay of Fundy (located in the Gulf of Maine) are protected under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.

That means all Atlantic salmon sold to consumers in food stores and restaurants—whether fresh, frozen, or smoked—comes from industrial salmon farms.

Which begs the question: Would you consider salmon sourced from an industrial fish farm, where the fish are crammed into net pens or giant land-based tanks, “all natural?” 

How about if the salmon’s diet consisted of a cocktail of chemicals (to prevent sea lice infestations) and antibiotics—like terramycin, florfenicol and sulfamerazinedeemed critical for human health, by the World Health Organization?

Would you think that salmon raised in floating factory farms which threaten marine life and habitats by discharging things like heavy metals, antibiotics, pesticides and untreated fish waste into the ocean could be truthfully marketed as “sustainably produced"?

If not, why do you think Ducktrap (and other smoked Atlantic salmon brands) make those claims?

One reason: To hook more consumers.

False 'natural' claims

Ducktrap offers a variety of wild and farmed smoked salmon products. Popular smoked Atlantic brands include Ducktrap Kendall Brook and Ducktrap Spruce Point, both of which are made with farmed fish—and both of which make the “All Natural” claim on the packaging.

According to a June 2020 consumer survey, when it comes to label claims, "natural" is the one consumers find the most important. In fact, more than 40 percent of consumers surveyed said “natural” claims influence their grocery store purchases.

An article about the survey reported:

“The survey gave consumers a hypothetical situation, where two products had the same Nutrition Facts panel, but other key differences. They were asked to choose which one would be healthier. And close to half said a product with an ‘all natural’ claim would be healthier than one without."

But is a smoked salmon product, made from salmon known to be sourced from industrial farms that use pesticides and antibiotices, really "healthier" just because the words "All Natural" appear on the package?

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has so far refused to define the word "natural" as it applies to food products or ingredients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines "natural," but only as it applies to labels on meat and poultry.

But consumer surveys are clear: Consumers associate the word "natural" with things like no pesticides or drugs or artificial colors or flavors. And they often not only conflate "natural" with "organic," a term that can be used only on products independently certified to meet USDA organic standards), but some consumers think "100% Nural is better than organic.

Ducktrap's owner has a bad track record

Ducktrap's owner, Norway-based Mowi, is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon products, including smoked Atlantic salmon products. Mowi has had its fair share of bad press lately. In February, according to this report in Salmon Business, 1.5 million juvenile salmon died in Mowi’s brand new hatchery in Northern Norway, most likely from acute sulfur poisoning. 

The sulfur poisoning news came just a month after Mowi revealed that in late 2019, more than 74,000 salmon had escaped from one of its industrial farms in Scotland, posing a threat to the area’s wild fish stocks. It was the third major escape in a year’s time. 

The Ducktrap brand has also been the subject of unfavorable news reports. It was recently named in a class action lawsuit filed against Mowi and other Norwegian industrial fish farms for conspiring “to drive up the prices of farm-raised Atlantic salmon in an ‘unprecedented and unjustified’ scheme that resulted in record profits.”

Mowi’s website is loaded with claims about how the salmon used in its products, including Ducktrap River of Maine brands, are “all natural,” “100% natural” or produced “all naturally with no artificial ingredients or preservatives.” 

Those claims are at odds with what most consumers would expect from a product produced with salmon raised on drugs and pesticides.

Mowi claims to be “leading the blue revolution,” and says it’s “very proud of producing food that is healthy for people and good for local communities and the planet.” 

But that characterization doesn’t fit with the description used by scientists who refer to the crowded fish farming methods used by companies like Mowi as “stressful high-density conditions” that far exceed what salmon would experience in the wild.

In fact, conditions at Mowi facilities in Scotland have been rated by OneKind, a Scotland-based animal welfare organization, as some of the industry’s worst due to premature mortality rates, sea lice infestations, stress levels, overstocking, genetic deformities and escapes, and other factors. OneKind ranked Mowi overall as the second-worst farmed fish producer on animal welfare.

Industrially farmed salmon is notoriously toxic. Testing on fresh farmed salmon has routinely revealed concerning levels of PCBs and dioxins.

Some fresh farmed salmon have even been found to contain ethoxyquin, a chemical developed by Monsanto and used in the manufacture of tires.

It’s time for Ducktrap to come clean. Smoked salmon made with industrially farmed salmon isn’t “natural,” “All Natural,” or “100% Natural.”

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