Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan

Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan says the company has been investigating the viability of using a natural astaxanthin and would be phasing it in over the next 12 months. Photo: Peter Mathew

Rose Donohoe writes in Tasmania’s New Daily that two of the country’s largest salmon producers have announced they will soon use natural pigment supplements in their fish feed, three days after an ABC Four Corners report on the state’s industry discussed the use of a synthetic version to color the flesh. The report questioned whether the use of a synthetic version of the chemical in Australia’s aquaculture industry should be marked in product labeling.

Tassal, the country’s largest producer, said it would use naturally derived astaxanthin in its fish feed, ending its use of a “nature-identical” synthetic version which is added to the farmed salmon’s feed to color the flesh from white or grey to the pink color common in salmon – which feed in the wild on krill and other foods containing naturally occurring astaxanthin.

In a statement, Tassal CEO Mark Ryan said the company “had been investigating the viability of using a natural astaxanthin for some time. We started this work because of the growing consumer preference for natural and organic products.”

“Sourcing a sustainable and reliable source of natural astaxanthin has been a complex task, but we are confident that by 2017 the first diets containing natural astaxanthin will be delivered to our farms,” he said, indicating that it would phase in with feed supplier Skretting over the next 12 months.

Tassal’s rival company, Huon Aquaculture, said they were “transitioning to a naturally sourced astaxanthin” as part of its new feed agreement with its major feed supplier, Biomar.

“Whilst we would have preferred not to say anything until we were assured of reliable supply of 100 per cent of our salmon feed product containing the naturally sourced astaxanthin, we understand that the recent Four Corners story and Tassal’s announcement today has increased interest in the use of astaxanthin,” Peter Bender, managing director and CEO of Huon Aquaculture, said in a statement.

“I commend Tassal for their move to the naturally sourced product as we are and I don’t think it matters who gets there first,” he said. “I think it is another example of our industry taking regular steps to improve and respond to consumer and community feedback.”

Petuna, Tasmania’s other major salmon farmer, declined to comment.

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