October 31, 2010

Officials Say Gulf Seafood Okay To Eat

U.S. officials said on Friday that testing has helped confirm that chemicals used to disperse oil from the BP spill have not made their way into fish, crabs, shrimp or oysters from the Gulf of Mexico.

The officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that tests of over 1,700 samples show that less than 1 percent had any trace of chemicals at all, and the ones that did had very low levels.

"This additional round of testing has confirmed ... that Gulf seafood brought to market is safe," Dr. Vicki Seyfert-Margolis, FDA's senior adviser for science and innovation, told a telephone briefing.

Earlier on Friday the Institute of Medicine committee released a report recommending better research on oil spills and the dispersant chemicals to help clean them up.

"The committee recommends that priority be given to obtaining information that is as comprehensive as possible about exposure to the oil, dispersants, and by-products of the controlled burns," the panel of experts wrote in their report.

The institute also recommended that the Health and Human Services Department research a way to "deploy a rapid research response for future oil spills and other potential disasters."

Dr. John Stein, director of NOAA's seafood safety program, told Reuters that the chemical test is a back-up for sensory testing, which is when trained experts sniff seafood for evidence of chemical contamination.

The chemical test looks for dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or DOSS, which is a main compound in the dispersants that helped break up the oil in the Gulf.   "DOSS is also approved by FDA for use in various household products and over-the-counter medications at very low levels," the agencies said.

"The results confirm the results of our sensory testing. Absolutely none of the samples pose a threat to human health," Stein said.

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded in April and killed 11 workers.  The disaster allowed about 185 million gallons of crude oil to be spilled into the Gulf.


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