The FDA has declared that Gulf seafood is now as safe as it was before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010.
This accident caused an unbelievable amount of damage. Could it really be restored in less than two years?
In order to determine the safety of Gulf seafood, the FDA has tested polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. They chose this method of testing because PAHs stay in seafood longer than other hydrocarbons.
If the level of PAHs is low, then it can be concluded that other hydrocarbons are lower.
Over 10,000 specimens were tested for levels at 100 times lower than the levels of concern, as well as levels at 1000 times lower.
They found that 99% of the samples tested had no detectable residue.
Levels are so low that Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, stated:
“Someone could eat 63 lbs of peeled shrimp (that’s 1,575 jumbo shrimp); or 5 lbs. of oyster meat (that’s 130 individual oysters); or 9 lbs. of fish (that’s 18 8-ounce fish filets) every day for five years and still not reach the levels of concern.” (1)
Unfortunately, the FDA also told us that Gulf seafood was safe to eat only a few months after the disaster that dumped millions of gallons of crude oil and dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico.
At that time, their testing methods were heavily criticized, and shown to leave out important factors. Testing included a “smell test”, as well as a test for dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate.
However, that early FDA testing completely ignored the possibility of other toxic chemicals.
Fishermen didn’t buy the claims and did not return to their livelihood, claiming that the FDA efforts to clear the seafood were simply a tactic to protect BP from compensating those in the fishing industry for their losses.
Environmental attorney Stuart Smith said, “I believe the government and BP are trying to downplay the damage.”
He said if they were successful, fishermen would not be fully compensated for their losses.
Other Contaminants Still Ignored by the FDA
The latest testing searched for dangerous levels of PAHs, and PAHs are indeed very toxic, but according to William Sawyer, a Florida-based toxicologist, testing for PAHs just wasn’t enough.
His own testing had found long-chain “aliphatic” hydrocarbons at levels twice as high as is considered safe. Daily exposure to such high levels causes a risk for liver damage.
Surprisingly, the government refused to recognize this, because of the safe levels that had been determined by the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Criteria Working Group back in the 90s.
The reason this information wasn’t considered applicable is because it was intended for public health officials working on hazardous waste sites and not specifically applied to food safety. (2)
The FDA made it’s standards more stringent only after they had made such a glaring error the last time they declared the “all-clear”.
Now, they insist that Gulf seafood really is completely safe to eat. Yet, a study published in Environmental health Perspectives suggested that testing should include a wider range of contaminants and not only focus on PAHs. (3)
What do you think? Do you trust the FDA’s testing methods? Will you feed your family seafood from the Gulf?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Resources & Image Credits:
(1) Gulf Seafood is Safe to Eat After Oil Spill
(2) Panel challenges Gulf seafood safety all-clear
(3) A Review of Seafood Safety after the Deepwater Horizon Blowout
(5) The Earthy Report
(6) Steve Snodgrass via Compfight cc