Did you know that farmed prawns are fed with non-fishmeal products including soya and grains? No, I didn’t either!
Some of you (and me) have mentioned reacting to prawns sometimes, but not always, so I thought I would investigate a bit. First, I sent a message to Sainsbury’s where I buy my prawns from:
Can you please tell me which, if any of your prawns are caught in the sea rather than farmed? Also, with your farmed prawns, can you advise if any are fed on grain, please so I can avoid them as I am grain sensitive?
After some emails back and forth because they needed to know the specific products I buy, they replied:
The Taste The Difference prawns are farmed and the Basics ones [frozen] are trawled. Sainsbury’s own, large peeled prawns 350g…. I can confirm for you that these are caught in the ocean rather than farmed. Our technologist has advised that the feed does contain wheat and soya but there is no risk of these being present in the final product. The only allergen present is obviously shellfish.
So, we got the usual ‘none found in the finished product’ reply too. However, from this I know that the trawled/ocean-caught ones – although less good for the fish stocks, of course – are at least not grain-fed.
I then thought I would ask the MSC (Marine Conservation Society) their view on prawn feed. At first, they assumed I was coming at it from a fish stocks point of view and replied:
Thank you for your enquiry regarding prawn feed, I am sorry I have taken so long to reply I had hoped I would be better informed on this issue when I came back from visiting a prawn farm directly. The simple answer is that I believe that there COULD be the ability to substitute part of the fishmeal in the diets of farmed prawns, however at present it doesn’t happen in great volumes. The prawn I saw were already being a fed a diet that includes other non-marine ingredients as well as fishmeal, but the % inclusion of fishmeal is determined mainly on price. Whilst is cost effective to do fish will be included in the diet.
So, they would obviously push for more non-fishmeal food to be included from a conservation angle, but I wanted them to understand the impact this could have on gluten sensitives. I wrote back:
My concern, unusually I suspect, is that I don’t want prawns fed on cereals as it would cause allergy problems for sensitive people. Out of interest, what was the non-fishmeal portion of the feed made up of, please?
The non-fish portion of any fish feed (including prawns) can be a variety of things depending on feed manufacturer and species being fed. Typically it could include: field beans, soya, vegetable oils, wheat/wheat gluten and other ingredients. However I am not aware of there being any issues of farmed species being unsuitable for those people that are gluten intolerant as I understand all ingredients are broken down to their constituent molecules/amino acids, but I must state that this is not my area of expertise at all and I would suggest that you follow this up with experts in this area if you are still concerned.
So, as always the ‘it doesn’t matter based on coeliac and peptide knowledge’ answer, but we have got confirmed that farmed prawns can be fed on a number of common allergens which could potentially come through. The most sensitive of us will notice it, just as we do in chicken.
Moral of the story – make sure your prawns, shellfish generally and fish are not farmed.
Phew – took a couple of months to get to that, shouldn’t be so hard, should it?!