In recent months the panga has become a controversial fish, and there are doubts about the safety of its consumption. To do? Can you eat safely? Why are there so many doubts?
Under the name of Pangasius hypophthalmus we find a species of fish of the Pangasiidae family, to which precisely belongs one of the fish that has had the worst fame in recent months: the panga, a freshwater fish that becomes a of the main exports of Vietnam, and that since the beginning of the century is habitually consumed both in Europe and in America.
That bad reputation began when a few years ago it was removed from the school menus of some autonomous communities. A measure that has been extended in recent months after the demand of the Parents of Students, and that the Serunion group (in charge of the daily meal of more than 80% of public schools), was seen forced to remove the panga from their menus.
Despite all this alarm, since so far it insists that our country has not yet received any health or food alert related to the panga, indicating that it would meet all the requirements that the European Commission requires the moment you arrive at the various border inspection points.
What is the panga? What does it consist of?
It consists of a white fish from both the rivers and lakes of Vietnam and Thailand, specifically in the basins of the Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers, although today it has also been introduced into other rivers.
Male fish can reach 130 centimeters in length in total and weigh up to 40 kilos, and until now it enjoyed a recognized popularity not only from a commercial point of view (it grows at a great speed, in just eight to ten months), but because practically everything can be used from it, as it has few bones and is very easy to fillet.
Why is the panga in the spotlight?
In the opinion of Greenpeace Spain officials, there are certain doubts about the conditions in which the panga is produced in the Mekong River (Vietnam), given that it is a river that is already highly polluted, and that in turn the fish still generates increased contamination “from the feces of millions of concentrated animals and from the antibiotics used.”
There are also doubts about the conditions of production and workers, which sometimes occurs in conditions of “slavery”.
On whether the panga would actually be a safe fish in terms of its consumption, the truth is that although there are no health or food alerts so far, many organizations warn about its consumption.
In 2010 the study in which it revealed the existence of small amounts of mercury in 4 of the 23 panga fillets analyzed.
Although these values did not reach the authorized limits, the OCU itself advised a rather “moderate” consumption of the species, not recommending it to be consumed more than once a week.
Presence of listeria and cholera
The newspaper El Correo Galego decided to send panga samples to the Anfaco-Cecopesca laboratory for analysis, after acquiring them in different supermarkets in Vigo.
The result was certainly alarming: in 6 of the 8 analyzed pangasius samples, the presence of listeria monocytogenes, the bacillus that causes listeriosis, a rare but extremely serious infection, was found.
In addition, remains of the bacteria vibrio cholerae, the bacteria that carry cholera, were also found.
Little nutritional content
Doubts about its production and quality are joined by another related to its nutritional composition: it does not contain Omega 3 oils in significant quantities, as well as other essential nutrients, which is the case with other fish traditionally marketed in our country.
What to do before the panga?
In this case, we prefer to echo the recommendation that the Organization of Consumers and Users gives about this fish: it is better not to abuse the panga and avoid its moderate and excessive consumption, trying to consume it only once a week in case you choose this kind of fish.