Senators from Gulf states are asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help assure the public that Gulf seafood is safe to eat, despite some concerns about the impact of the last year’s massive oil spill.
“Gulf seafood is safe, and we want the FDA to make sure the public knows that,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who recently sent a letter to FDA. “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.”
Sens. 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) signed on to Vitter’s letter, which asks that the agency “engage more directly” on the issue. Specifically, the senators say they would welcome the opportunity to conduct a joint press event on the Gulf Coast on seafood safety.
“As the leader of our nation’s primary agency tasked with food safety, you are in a unique position to provide a much-needed boost to our fishermen by publicly and vigorously defending the safety of Gulf seafood. Sound science must prevail to protect American jobs and to help reinvigorate this important industry,” reads the letter. “We ask that you please help us by more actively promoting the safety of our seafood and refuting unscientific claims which assert otherwise.”
The letter points to FDA’s “rigorous” seafood testing in the wake of the spill (link). FDA, which conducted tests with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), insists that gulf seafood is safe to eat. All of the tests conducted showed the chemicals of concerns to be far below the set safety thresholds.
The most recent concerns stem from whether those safety thresholds are adequate to protect public health.
In an article published in Environmental Health Perspectives in October, Natural Resources Defense Council researchers reported that FDA’s methods for setting safety levels for Gulf seafood “significantly underestimate the risk from seafood contaminants.” The researchers concluded that FDA overestimated safe levels for cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by as much as 10,000 times for vulnerable populations, like pregnant women and children.
In their letter, the senators chide such reports about unsafe Gulf seafood as “misinformation and unscientific claims” that deny what testing has “proven.”
“The BP oil spill had devastating economic consequences for our state, and lingering public doubt about the safety of our seafood is significantly impeding our recovery,” adds the letter.
BP meanwhile has pledged millions to help repair the region’s two most affected industries: tourism and seafood.
To help on the seafood front, in Louisiana, BP has committed $18 million over three years for seafood testing (including oil, dispersants, and “other spill-related impacts”), $13 million for a three year fishery resource monitoring plan to “study the effects of the oil on the state’s fisheries resources,” and $30 million over three years for Louisiana seafood promotion.
In Florida, the company has also pledged $10 million to seafood testing and another $10 million for seafood marketing. In Alabama, the company has committed $4 million over three years for seafood testing and $5 million to marketing. According to their website, BP is “in discussions with Mississippi officials” on seafood testing, marketing and promotion funding.