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Gulf seafood safe to eat, FDA says

Officials report that less than 1% of 1,735 seafood tissue samples came up positive for any trace chemicals and that those samples that tested positive contained levels of contaminants well below the safety threshold.

October 29, 2010|By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

Recent chemical tests have shown no widespread contamination to seafood from dispersants used to break up oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico — and that such food is safe for the public to eat.

Officials from the federal Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Friday that less than 1% of 1,735 seafood tissue samples tested came up positive for any trace chemicals.

Those samples that tested positive contained levels of contaminants well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for fish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters, federal officials said.

"This new test should help strengthen consumer confidence in gulf seafood," FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement. "The overwhelming majority of the seafood tested shows no detectable residue, and not one of the samples shows a residue level that would be harmful for humans. There is no question gulf seafood coming to market is safe from oil or dispersant residue."

The samples, collected from June to September, were drawn from a wide variety of fish species — including tuna, wahoo, swordfish, gray snapper and butterfish — and shellfish including shrimp, crabs and oysters.

The chemical test was focused on finding dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or DOSS, a key compound used in the dispersant.

John Stein, director of the NOAA's seafood safety program, told reporters Friday that this examination was a secondary test to "sensory testing," in which trained experts smell seafood in order to uncover contamination.

These fish sniffers were a core part of a major effort by the NOAA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and gulf state governments to ensure that the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill didn't pollute the nation's food supply. Every seafood sample from reopened gulf waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant, federal officials said.

Vicki Seyfert-Margolis, FDA's senior advisor for science and innovation, told reporters Friday that the federal agencies were continuing to monitor the safety of gulf seafood. Federal officials said nearly 9,444 square miles, or about 4% of the federal waters in the gulf, remain closed to commercial and recreational fishing.

p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

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