WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say they are monitoring the safety of Gulf of Mexico seafood.
The federal agencies announced they are taking additional steps to enhance inspection measures designed to ensure seafood in the region has not been contaminated by the continuing oil spill in the gulf. The additional measures include increased seafood testing inspections, precautionary closures of fishing areas and a re-opening protocol.
“Closing harvest waters that could be exposed to oil protects the public from potentially contaminated seafood because it keeps the product from entering the food supply,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.
Officials have currently closed 32 percent of federal waters encompassing areas affected by oil, as well as areas projected to be affected during the next 48-72-hour period. The closed areas also include a five-nautical-mile buffer as a precaution.
“FDA and NOAA are working together to ensure that seafood from the gulf is not contaminated with oil,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. “It is important to coordinate seafood surveillance efforts on the water, at the docks and at seafood processors to ensure seafood in the market is safe to eat.”
Before the BP oil spill, NOAA said it operated gulf seafood inspection services consisting of a handful of personnel – on a fee-for-service basis — for the seafood industry.
Today, samples collected as part of NOAA’s efforts are sent to the National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss., where federal and state sensory testing analysts trained to detect certain thresholds of chemicals. Samples are also sent to NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for chemical testing.
“FDA has set up a hotline for reporting seafood safety issues,” Hamburg said. “We encourage fisherman and consumers to report potential contamination to 1-888-INFO-FDA (888-463-6332).”
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