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Can Tilapia Make You Sick?

Can Tilapia Make You Sick?

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Nowadays, many grocery stores are teeming with produce sourced from countries around the world. However, price and taste are no longer the only criteria many people consider today when buying food. The consumer mindset is gradually shifting to include considerations such as the food source, supply chain, and other components that can significantly impact a person’s health. With the news of food-borne Salmonella outbreaks becoming more frequent, many people are starting to take a second look at their fish, and wondering if it’s still safe to eat. One common question people ask is if tilapia can make you sick?

It’s always a possibility when eating tilapia that someone can contract a food-borne illness and become sick. According to the Centers For Disease Control, fish accounted for 24% of food-borne disease outbreaks in the year 2013. Also, in the same year, across 6 states, there were reported 33 illnesses and 6 hospitalizations associated with eating tilapia. Cross-contamination from manufacturers and growers is a common source of tilapia-related pathogens. In this article, we will examine the commercial tilapia supply-chain and identify the most common reasons why eating tilapia could make someone sick.

Concerns Over Tilapia Breeding Practices

Concerns Over Tilapia Breeding Practices

Today growers worldwide are cultivating tilapia to generate profits or provide food for their family. With the fish being resilient, they can withstand a variety of water conditions. This factor is one reason why tilapia are ideal for breeding, aside from their rapid growth rate, affordability, and quality meat. However, there are currently emerging concerns about whether the fish is safe to consume. 

Of course, the regulations for tilapia breeding will vary depending on the location or local laws. At the moment, China is the leading commercial producer of these species. The country generates 1.6 million metric tons of tilapia yearly. They supply a vast majority of the fish to the United States. Nevertheless, there are many concerns over breeding methods practiced by China. Below we list down a few of these reported issues:

Tilapia Can Possibly Carry Dangerous Chemicals

A report from the US FDA revealed rejecting 187 consignments of tilapia from China from 2007 to 2012. According to the report, the fish failed to meet safety regulations because they were contaminated with possible toxic chemicals, which includes dangerous additives and veterinary drug traces.  

Another organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, also cited that various chemicals that trigger damaging effects and induces cancer were still utilized by Chinese tilapia breeders despite their being outlawed for several years. 

Tilapia Were Fed Livestock Feces

In another report, the US FDA states that it is common for tilapia breeders in the region to feed their fish livestock feces. The reason behind this method is to reduce production expenses. However, animal waste can potentially contain salmonella bacteria, leading to water contamination and foodborne problems.  

Can Tilapia Make You Sick?

Remember, when selecting fish to eat, always consider those that come from sustainable providers. These providers generally maintain high-quality feed, a safe, and clean environment for their product, and raise good-condition fish.  And when fish are raised in healthy environments, they are typically safer to consume.  

Some of the countries that have sustainable providers of tilapia are breeders from Canada, Ecuador, Netherlands, and the United States. As issues circulate over the breeding practices in China, consider the country a non-sustainable supplier of the fish. And to prevent any sickness, it is best to avoid non-sustainable providers since there is a enhanced possibility that their tilapia can make you sick. 

Rewards Of Eating Tilapia

However, the news about tilapia isn’t all bad and there is a reason why its one of most popular fish to consume around the world. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), adding fish to a nutritional diet is essential for everyone, especially pregnant women and children.  A serving of 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of this tilapia will provide you the following nutrients:

  • Fats: 3 grams
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Calories:128
  • Vitamin B12: 31% of the recommended daily intake
  • Niacin: 24% of the recommended daily intake
  • Potassium: 20% of the recommended daily intake
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the recommended daily intake

As shown above, tilapia is low in fat and a good source of protein. Generally, fish are a nutritious way to obtain proteins compared to eating red meat or processed food. Tilapia, in particular, have lower levels of calories and sodium versus other packaged meats.


People have already come to know the benefits of consuming fish. And tilapia, having filled the spot of one of the world’s top aquaculture products, is becoming popular because they are highly nutritious and offer a mild taste. However, with the growing concerns over some breeding practices, people are now debating if these fish are indeed safe to consume. 

Remember, when purchasing tilapia, always select those from sustainable providers. These suppliers see to it they provide fish that are safe to eat and in good quality condition. Consider avoiding non-sustainable providers with contentious breeding practices and can possibly supply tilapia that can make you sick. If you are interested in how to start breeding these species, click here

The Campbells love finding sustainable and fun ways to increase their independence from traditional brick and motor supermarkets. Aquaponics provides a full lifecycle food source for families and a great hobby. #aquaponicslifestyle

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