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Lipids. 2009 Jun;44(6):569-76. doi: 10.1007/s11745-009-3294-6. Epub 2009 May 19.

A simplified method to distinguish farmed (Salmo salar) from wild salmon: fatty acid ratios versus astaxanthin chiral isomers.

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University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA.


Mislabeling of farmed and wild salmon sold in markets has been reported. Since the fatty acid content of fish may influence human health and thus consumer behavior, a simplified method to identify wild and farmed salmon is necessary. Several studies have demonstrated differences in lipid profiles between farmed and wild salmon but no data exists validating these differences with government-approved methods to accurately identify the origin of these fish. Current methods are both expensive and complicated, using highly specialized equipment not commonly available. Therefore, we developed a testing protocol using gas chromatography (GC), to determine the origin of salmon using fatty acid profiles. We also compared the GC method with the currently approved FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) technique that uses analysis of carotenoid optical isomers and found 100% agreement. Statistical validation (n = 30) was obtained showing elevated 18:2n-6 (z = 4.56; P = 0.0001) and decreased 20:1n-9 (z = 1.79; P = 0.07) in farmed samples. The method is suitable for wide adaptation because fatty acid methyl ester analysis is a well-established procedure in labs that conduct analysis of lipid composition and food constituents. GC analysis for determining the origin of North American salmon compared favorably with the astaxanthin isomer technique used by the FDA and showed that the fatty acid 18:2n-6 was the key indicator associated with the origin of these salmon.

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