Survey assesses Gulf spill’s impact on seafood consumption

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Louisiana

A new survey has found that more than half of Americans have changed their seafood consumption as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill – and nearly a third of those intend to eat less seafood regardless of its origin.

The survey – conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota and the Louisiana State University AgCenter, and funded by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense – is part of an ongoing study that tracks consumers' perceptions about food safety and the food supply. Its latest results, based on responses during the six weeks following the spill, are based on telephone interviews with 1,076 individuals, and suggest that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could affect the wider seafood industry.

It found that 89 percent of respondents were at least somewhat concerned about the potential effect of the spill on the safety of seafood from the Gulf, and 50 percent said they were “extremely concerned”.

Regarding the oil spill’s effect on seafood consumption habits, 54 percent reported some impact, 44 percent of that group said they would only eat seafood that they know does not come from the Gulf of Mexico, and another 31 percent said they would eat less seafood regardless of its origin.

"Given the amount of news coverage the oil spill has received, these results may not be surprising, but it does show that consumers are connecting the event to food safety,"​ said Dennis Degeneffe, a research fellow at The Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota.

The survey also found that 99 percent of those surveyed were aware of the oil spill, with 85 percent saying they were closely following news about it.

The US Commerce Department declared a ‘fishery disaster’ in the Gulf late last month, responding to requests from the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi after access was lost to many commercial fisheries, as well as in response to the existing and anticipated environmental damage from the spill, in order to give access to federal resources and assistance for those affected.

The fishing area affected includes Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, an area where more than 1bn pounds of fish and shellfish were harvested in 2008, according to the most recent available government figures.

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