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Reducing the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in farmed Atlantic salmon by substitution of fish oil with vegetable oil in the feed


Marc H.G. Berntssen, National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, P.O. Box 2029 Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway. E-mail:


Atlantic salmon were fed extruded diets based on either 100% fish oil (FO) or 100% vegetable oil blend (VO) substitution for 22 months. A total of seven distinct feeding periods were studied that incorporated higher levels of dietary oil inclusion, and larger pellet size as fish size increased. Whole fish levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/F) and dioxin-like PCBs (DLPCB) were analysed at the beginning and end of each of the seven feeding periods. The PCDD/F and DLPCB concentrations in the FO diets increased from 2.43 to 4.74 ng WHO-TEQ kg−1 (TEQ, toxic equivalents), while VO diets decreased from 1.07 to 0.33 WHO-TEQ kg−1 as oil inclusion increased. Partial least square regression analyses identified feed concentration, growth rate and feed utilization, but not variations in lipid content, as factors significantly affecting fish PCDD/F and DLPCB levels. Accumulation efficiencies for DLPCB (740 ± 90 g kg−1) were significantly (P < 0.01) higher than for PCDD/F (430 ± 60 g kg−1), explaining the increasing dominance of DLPCB levels over PCDD/F levels in whole fish (DLPCB : PCDD/F ratio of 2.4 ± 0.1 for both VO and FO fed fish) compared with feed (DLPCB : PCDD/F ratio of 1.5 and 0.34 for FO and VO feed respectively). Vegetable oil substitution significantly reduced the level of PCDD/F and DLPCB (eightfold and twelve-fold, respectively) in the fillet of a 2 kg salmon, but, also negatively affected beneficial health components such as fillet n-3/n-6 fatty acid ratio.