Perceived versus real toxicological safety of pangasius catfish: a review modifying market perspectives

Murk, Albertinka J.; Rietjens, I.M.C.M.; Bush, S.R.


Mass media reports suggest that pangasius (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) is ‘full of poison’ because it is able to survive in the ‘heavily polluted Mekong River’ and contains pesticides and veterinary treatment chemicals. However, most of these claims are not substantiated with scientific evidence. To assess the safety of pangasius consumption, a full toxicological risk assessment was performed. The results obtained were compared to toxicity claims made in a selection of media reports. Information on contaminant levels encountered in pangasius was collected from the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) database. The toxicological risk assessments do not support any of the toxicological risks suggested in the media. Next, the maximum pangasius consumption that would be considered safe was estimated on the basis of the highest levels of the toxic contaminants reported in Vietnamese pangasius by RASFF and the safety thresholds for the contaminants. The maximum amount of the recalled fillet that could have been consumed without any adverse effects amounted to between 3.4 and 166.7 kg day−1 (lifelong for a 70 kg adult) in the case of pesticide contamination and between 0.613 and 303 kg fillet day−1 in the case of preservatives and antibiotics. It is concluded that consumption of pangasius available on the European market does not pose any concern for the health of the consumer. The analysis presented in this study illustrates that publicly available independent information could help consumers to develop their own well-informed opinion about food safety issues.