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Steps to ensure Gulf seafood safety have worked, says CFSAN official

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 24-May-2011

A year after the Gulf oil spill caused a fishery disaster in the region, FDA’s Don Kraemer of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) says steps taken to ensure seafood safety have worked.

In a video series published on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website , FDA’s acting deputy director of CFSAN Don Kraemer said that levels of contamination in seafood being sold from the Gulf of Mexico are so low that a person would have to eat around 60 pounds of shrimp a day for five years in order to approach the department’s levels of concern for contaminants.

Kraemer said: “We’re very confident that the steps that we have put in place to assure the safety of seafood have worked. We had an extensive program of sampling, at that time and since then, and the results have consistently been 100 to 1,000 times below our levels of concern. So, we’re quite confident that the seafood harvested in the Gulf that’s in commercial channels is safe.”

Working in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Gulf state safety authorities, the FDA has tested more than 10,000 samples from the Gulf, and the NOAA has said it will continue testing seafood from the region into the summer in an effort to reassure consumer that it is safe to eat. It says that more than 99 percent of samples have no detectable residue at all.

About 20 percent of fishing grounds in the Gulf were closed following the massive oil spill on April 20, 2010, but much of the area has been reopened for fishing since then. Kraemer said: “No areas opened until every sample passed every test and in fact they passed consistently...at 100 to 1,000 below the levels of concern that we had set for those contaminants.”

However, many consumers continue to be concerned about the safety of seafood from the area, and a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that authorities should widen their testing procedures to include other potential contaminants.

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

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