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Senators urge FDA to reassure public of Gulf seafood safety

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 12-Dec-2011

A group of US Senators from the Gulf region has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assist them in assuring the public of the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

In a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg dated December 1, Senator David Vitter and seven other signatories wrote that they were concerned about statements from some groups questioning the safety of seafood from the Gulf, despite testing that showed seafood from the region was safe to eat.

“We ask that you please engage more directly on this issue, and help us ensure that the general public understands that Gulf seafood is safe to eat,” the letter said.

In May, the FDA said that working in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Gulf state safety authorities, it had tested more than 10,000 samples from the Gulf. The NOAA said at that time that more than 99 percent of samples had no detectable residue at all.

“Gulf seafood is safe, and we want the FDA to make sure the public knows that,” Vitter said in a statement. “The FDA is in the best position to provide a much-needed boost to our fishermen by publicly and vigorously defending the safety of Gulf seafood.”

A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by researchers from the National Defense Resources Council (NDRC), raised a number of concerns about the safety of seafood from the region, following the BP oil spill last year. In particular, it found that the FDA may have overestimated safe levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children.

However, the Senators claim that this study was based on “misinformation and unscientific claims”, and said in their letter to Hamburg that “sound science must prevail”.

Executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Ewell Smith said: “It is critically important that the FDA and other federal agencies involved in the testing of Gulf seafood continue to educate consumers at the national level regarding ongoing testing and the results of those tests, which show that our seafood is safe.”

Other senators to sign onto Vitter’s letter were Mary Landrieu, John Cornyn (R-TX), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Information on seafood testing in the Gulf, including all test results, is available online here .

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