Is Tilapia Safe to Eat?

Recently, we received a reader question asking, “Is tilapia safe to eat? I’ve heard that it’s often farm raised in countries where there are no guidelines, and they are essentially raised in waste and pumped full of antibiotics.”

To answer this question and learn more about tilapia, we reached out to Kevin Fitzsimmons, PhD, Professor, Extension Specialist & Research Scientist at the University of Arizona.

Is tilapia safe to eat?

Dr. Fitzsimmons:

Yes, it is safe to eat. All of the tilapia that you’re buying at grocery stores is coming from farms that are regulated.

Is tilapia full of antibiotics?

Dr. Fitzsimmons:

Tilapia are a very hardy fish. They don’t need any antibiotics in the feed or the water. It’s really rare, if ever, to find antibiotics residues in tilapia. Most aquaculture farms don’t use any antibiotics anymore because farmers are vaccinating their fish. The concerns of antibiotics in fish are not there any more.

Is tilapia grown in waste water?

Dr. Fitzsimmons:

As far as dirty water, that depends on where the fish is from. There are some places where farmers are not very careful and may have agricultural waste or industrial waste in the water. In places like Bangladesh or parts of China, you might have some concerns over that.


But in most places, the government is really aware of this problem and is implementing regulations and certification programs to check on this. Most of these governments are working closely with certification programs such as ones from Wal-Mart, World Wildlife Fund, Global Aquaculture Alliance and Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Most of the big retailers require that their products go through some type of certification program. Consumers can check at their grocery stores to see if there is a certification program in place that will help them have a higher level of confidence.


I think all tilapia is very safe. I’ve been at tilapia farms and have seen how they are raised. But if there’s an extra level of confidence that people want to look for, look for certification labels before you purchase fish, and ask your retailer about them.

Do you have a question about food? Submit your question here.

Tilapia” by Roberto Verzo is licensed under CC BY.