Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

The Controversial Seafood ‘Sniff Test’

The government has reported that the “sniff test” is an important part of determining whether seafood is safe to eat. Officials say that the scientists doing the sniffing are specially trained to detect the scent of both oil and dispersant. But the sniff method has been raising doubts even among those whose livelihoods depend on restoring national confidence in gulf seafood.

Rusty Graybill, a fisherman in the gulf, spoke about his doubts in the government’s testing methods. 

“If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured oil and Dove detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat that fish?” asked Graybill. “I wouldn’t feed it to you or my family. I’m afraid someone’s going to get sick,” reported FoodManufacturing.com.

Ryan Lambert, 52, a charter fishing captain also does not think fishing should resume so quickly, calling for more data from the experts.

“I have no confidence in their testing methods,” Lambert said.

Lambert and Graybill represent the views of many fishermen and consumers who are unsure about the safety of gulf seafood.

John Stein, head of the seafood safety program in the Gulf, was interviewed on NPR Tuesday.  He explained that each day the government assesses the fishing situation and decides whether or not to keep the grounds closed or decides to test the food and potentially reopen them.  When considering re-opening a fishing area federal agencies take into account a multi-faceted test. 

One of the steps of this test is indeed the controversial “sniff test”, officially referred to as a “sensory analysis.” He says that this test is only one part of a series of tests, including laboratory chemical analysis, all of which collaborate to accurately analyze the safety of the seafood.

Stein said of the controversial test, “This test is not something unique to this oil spill situation. It is a method that is used widely throughout the food industry.” In terms of the seafood that undergoes the test he said, “If it passes then it will be put to a chemistry test and it must pass this to be deemed safe.”

In terms of getting the word out that this and other mandatory tests do indeed insure the safety of the food, “You always can do more,” Stein said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on BP Monday to fund a 20-year testing and certification program to restore confidence in seafood from the Gulf.

© Food Safety News