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March 22nd 2023

Scots are eating less than a quarter of the recommended amount of oily fish per week, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and conducted by Abertay University, found the average intake of oil rich fish - like Scottish salmon - was 33g per person per week between 2016-18.

The amount consumed increased slightly from 29g per person per week in 2001-03, but it remained 76 per cent lower than the recommended 140g portion set out in the Scottish Government's Scottish Dietary Goals (SDGs).

Earlier this year a nutritional analysis of Scottish salmon carried out by the University of Stirling revealed a single portion provides more than 70 per cent of a person's daily vitamin D needs - which is particularly important for Scots during the darker months.

The study by the university's Nutritional Analytical Service also showed salmon has 4.5 times the daily recommendation for special omega-3 fats found in marine foods, more than half our protein needs, and 42 per cent of the vitamin E recommendation.

The new figures for vitamin D and omega-3s were 7 to 8 per cent higher than in previous tests conducted in 2003 and 2020.

Expert dietitians recommend that adults and children should eat two weekly servings of fish - and say one of these should be oily fish like Scottish farm-raised salmon.

The SDGs were last updated in March 2016 to reflect revised recommendations on healthy eating from the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

They include a recommendation for "oil rich consumption to increase to one portion per person (140g) per week".

However, the report for the FSS said there was virtually no change against the aim, saying: "Average consumption is 76 per cent lower than the goal."

The study estimated food and nutrient intakes from food purchase data to allow for monitoring of the Scottish diet against the SDGs.

It said: "Although there have been fluctuations over the 18 years, little change was found in intakes of most foods and nutrients between 2001 and 2018."

Last year, the volume of fresh, chilled salmon consumed in the UK increased 7.8 per cent to 63,300 tonnes, up from 58,700 tonnes, with sales up 4.9 per cent.

But there was a slight fall in sales in the overall fish market of 0.2 per cent.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:

"Scottish salmon is the best and most nutritious product that Scots can put on their plate.

"Recent findings have indicated an increase in the nutritional value of salmon, which has coincided with improvements in the way producers are rearing and feeding their stock.

"Scottish salmon is already incredibly popular, and we hope that increased consumption will see a move closer to this Scottish Dietary Goal - boosting the health of the nation in the process."

Nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire said:

"It's concerning that oily fish is being under consumed in Scotland.

"The new nutritional analyses from the University of Stirling reveals that farm-raised Scottish salmon is a rich source of high-quality protein which helps to support muscles and bones. The analysis also confirms that a standard portion of around 140g is rich in vitamin D and provides around 7 micrograms which is close to the daily recommendation of 10 micrograms.

"Salmon also provides vitamin E, an antioxidant, and is one of the best natural sources of marine omega-3 fats which are needed for a healthy heart and brain. Taken together, these facts show that a weekly serving of salmon is an easy and delicious way to top up your nutritional health".