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HEALTH

Norwegian farmed salmon is safe: report

Farmed Norwegian salmon - repeatedly criticized for its supposed effects on health - can be safely eaten even by pregnant women, a new report by experts said on Monday.

Norwegian farmed salmon is safe: report
Norway is the world's biggest producer of farmed salmon. Photo: Terje Maroy/Scanpix/AFP

A fixture of Christmas and New Year celebrations in Europe, farmed salmon has become more and more controversial, with a French TV programme last year branding it the "most toxic food in the world".

But health watchdogs tasked by the Norwegian government to investigate the issue say women in particular should eat more of the fish.

"The benefits of eating fish far outweigh the insignificant risk of pollutants and other substances," said Janneche Utne Skaare, of Norway's Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM).

"Given the present level of the most dangerous toxins like PCBs, dioxins and mercury, even people who eat a lot of oily or white fish would not absorb them in harmful quantities," Skaare, a biologist and toxicologist, told public broadcaster NRK.

Norway is the world's biggest producer of farmed salmon, and it is one of the country's main export earners after oil.

The Norwegian authorities had previously advised young and pregnant women to limit their consumption of oily fish to two meals a week so as not to expose their children to health risks.

Warning lifted

But that warning on eating salmon, trout, mackerel and herring has now been lifted. In fact, the new VKM report "stresses how important it is for this group to eat fish because it has been proven that mothers eating fish has a positive effect on the development on the nervous system of foetuses and breast-fed babies," said public health chief Knut-Inge Klepp.

According to the new report, farmed salmon now contains 70 percent less dioxins and PCBs than when Norwegian authorities last did major tests in 2006, and levels of mercury have been halved due to changes in what fish are now fed on.

Vegetable oils have largely replaced fish meal and oil which made up for 90 percent of the diet of farmed fish in 1990. The Norwegian research institute Nofima said fish protein now makes up no more than 29 percent of their diet.

Tests by the VKM show that you can eat more than a kilo of farmed salmon a week without risk, Norwegian public health officials maintained.

They recommend that people eat at least two or three fish-based meals a week, or between 300 and 450 grams (10.5-16 ounces), half of which should be oily fish.

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DISCOVER NORWAY

Where are Norway’s Michelin star restaurants?

Norway is home to four new Michelin-starred restaurants following the recent publication of the Nordic Countries Guide for 2022. These are all the Norwegian restaurants to receive a star in the Michelin Guide. 

Where are Norway’s Michelin star restaurants?

Four new Norwegian restaurants received Michelin stars when the Nordic Countries Guide for 2022 was published this week. 

Scandinavia’s cooking elite gathered in Stavanger on Monday to award this year’s stars and individual honours for chefs in the Nordics. 

Three of the new stars awarded were given to restaurants in Oslo, while the other star was given to an eatery in Bergen, taking the number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the city on Norway’s west coast to two. 

One of the newcomers, Hot Shop, named after the former sex shop the building used to house, is located on Københavngata street in east Oslo. The canteen-style bistro serves tasting menus based on seasonal, local ingredients, which the Michelin Guide describes as “elegant, vibrant and technically adept, with delicate touches and real depth of flavour”. 

Schlägergården in Lilleaker, on the eastern outskirts of Oslo, was also awarded its first star. However, it was the fourth time restaurant manager Bjørn Svensson had received a star for one of his restaurants. The restaurant is in a converted 18th-century farmhouse with a set menu consisting of local produce, some foraged, grown, or preserved by the eatery’s staff. 

Michelin describes the food there as “pure, expertly crafted dishes which have bold, emotive flavours”.

Located right on the border of Grünerløkka and St. Hanshaugen in central Oslo is Hyde, the third restaurant in the capital to receive its first Michelin star this year. The guide credits the service and “laid-back, lively atmosphere” as major pulls for the restaurants.

Over on Norway’s west coast, Lysverket in Bergen was awarded a Michelin star. The eatery serves up creative, modern takes on Norwegian dishes accompanied by craft cocktails. The restaurant is housed in an art museum with the menus showcasing “intelligently crafted, balanced dishes”. 

The other restaurant in Oslo, boasting a glowing review from the Michelin guide, was Maaemo, which retained its three Michelin star status. The new Nordic cuisine behemoth focused on organic and biodynamic produce is located in the heart of Oslo on Dronning Eufamas gate street.

A few other chefs and restaurants received accolades at this year’s presentation. Heidi Bjerkan took home two awards, the first for excellent service at her sustainable Michelin-starred restaurant Credo. One of her other restaurants, Jossa Mat og Drikke, won a green star, given to eatery’s that excel in sustainable operations. 

A Norwegian, Jimmy Øien, scooped the award for the best young chef. Øien is the chef at Rest located on Kirkegat in Central Oslo and holds a green star for sustainable practices. The menu heavily emphasises using imperfect produce, which other places may otherwise discard. 

Several restaurants also retained their status. Renaa, with its kitchen located in the heart of the restaurant, has two Michelin stars and is commended by the guide for the quality of its Norwegian seafood dishes and the bread it produces at a nearby bakery. 

The 2022 guide also includes Kontrast (Oslo), Statholdergaarden (Oslo) , Under (Lindesnes), the biggest underwater restaurant in the world, Sabi Omakase (Stavanger), Bare (Bergen), FAGN (Trondheim), Credo (Trondheim) and Speilsalen (Trondheim), which all have one Michelin star.

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