Is the FDA Overhyping the Safety of Gulf Seafood?
By Tom Philpott
Is Gulf seafood safe to eat in the wake of BP’s massive oil spill last year? Absolutely, insists the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the safety of the food supply.
But a recent study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) scientists casts serious doubt on that claim. A peer-reviewed article soon to be published in Environmental Health Perspectives (abstract here), concludes that the FDA’s methods for gauging safety of Gulf seafood “significantly underestimate risk from seafood contaminants.”
To assess risk of eating seafood that has been exposed to oil, the agency establishes a “level of concern”—the threshold above which contaminants pose unacceptable risks for seafood consumers—for a variety of oil-related substances. According to the NRDC team, the FDA is using outdated science to set those levels way to low—and as a result, the agency is promoting the consumption of seafood that in reality poses serious risk to consumers, particularly pregnant women and children.