Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
Is Gulf seafood really safe to eat?
Independent testing has turned up oil contamination in Gulf seafood, raising concerns that federal officials prematurely pronounced it OK to eat.
The Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper (LMRK) has released results from seafood sampling trips conducted along a broad area of the Louisiana coast since August. The results show significant levels of petroleum in a number of species — though the contamination was not apparent by sight or smell.
For examples, levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons in flounder and speckled trout caught in St. Bernard Parish on Aug. 12 were 21,575 milligrams per kilogram, while oysters caught in Plaquemines Parish on Aug. 3 showed levels at 12,500 mg/kg. Petroleum levels found in fiddler crabs and periwinkles harvested from Terrebonne Parish on Aug. 19 were 6,916 mg/kg.
“The high levels of petroleum hydrocarbons are troubling particularly since many of these species are consumed by people,” the LMRK said in a press release. “It is our understanding that there should be no detectable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons in seafood.”
LMRK noted that the seafood species appeared “pristine” and did not look or smell suspicious.
The group’s sampling also showed that the oil contamination is moving up the food chain, with levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons in seagull guts collected from Terrebonne Parish on Aug. 19 at 23,302 mg/kg. This LMRK chart shows the latest sampling results in full (click on chart for a larger version):
Meanwhile, a Louisiana law firm representing several environmental and fisheries groups including the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association say its own sampling of Gulf seafood contradicts the federal government’s claims that it is safe to eat. The tests looked at a range of hydrocarbons for which federal agencies are not testing for, and which can impact liver and kidney function.
“The gap [in testing] is rather serious,” toxicologist William Sawyer told New Orleans’ Gambit Weekly. “The hydrocarbons … have almost no volatility. They can’t be detected by nose, not even by a bloodhound.”
Late last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed over 4,200 square miles of Gulf waters to royal red shrimp fishing after some fishermen collected tar balls in their nets and others caught oiled shrimp. The announcement came just days before the White House shipped 2,000 pounds of Gulf shrimp and crabs to serve at holiday parties in the latest effort to boost consumer confidence in the region’s seafood.
An estimated 172 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig between April and July.
By Sue Sturgis
We are working hard to test our seafood and properly ensure its safety. It is time for Louisiana businesses to restore our seafood industry, our restaurants and the image of our state. Gulf seafood still has a perception problem but the reality is Gulf Seafood is safe and plentiful.
The FDA operates a mandatory safety program for all seafood products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Public Health Service Act. This program includes research, inspection, compliance, enforcement, outreach and the development of regulations and industry guidance for seafood.
Current scientific data from this sophisticated testing indicate Gulf Seafood is safe to eat.
Three departments in the State of Louisiana – the Departments of Environmental Quality, the Department of Health and Hospitals, and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries participate in seafood safety testing programs.
The FDA is working closely with NOAA put in place strong safety criteria to protect vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women, and subsistence fishing communities.
Louisiana Seafood Board
Thank you for posting this article. The locals (like me) have known for a long time (since the oil spill) that the seafood in the gulf isn’t safe, and that comment above from Matthew Berman of the LA Seafood Board is hogwash. Other nonprofit organizations are protesting the FDA and the Seafood Board’s testing methods, saying that not only are they not testing for the right chemicals, but that they are not telling the truth. Here is a link to that article. http://www.theind.com/food/7460-louisiana-environmental-groups-protest-fda-seafood-saftey-standards