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article imageFederal agencies step up measures to inspect seafood along Gulf

By Vilma Cajigas     Jun 15, 2010 in Food
While consumer confidence in Gulf water seafood declines, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in collaboration with Gulf State regulatory agencies, intensify seafood inspections.
“Combining the expertise of NOAA and FDA is the best way to use our scientific abilities to help the American people in this emergency," said NOAA administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco.
The FDA continues to support NOAA’s fishery area closures which began May 2 and encompass 32 percent of federal waters, as well as a five-nautical-mile precautionary area surrounding the known affected areas.
A seafood sampling and inspection plan, put into effect by NOAA shortly after the BP oil spill, collects and test both commercial and recreational seafood caught in areas not yet affected by the oil spill. If oil compounds are found in the fish, NOAA will consider expanding the already closed areas.
“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” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret Hamburg, MD.
Dock sampling of fish coming from the Gulf of Mexico will include a monitoring system set up to inform NOAA whether the catch was outside of the closed area. If oil contaminates are found in the dockside fish samples, NOAA will notify the FDA and state health officials.
FDA will in turn step up efforts to ensure that all fish and fishery products are safe for consumption in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the Public Health Service Act and all related federal regulations.
Since oysters, crab and shrimp are known to retain contaminants longer than fin-fish, the FDA will focus first on seafood processors who buy their shellfish directly from the harvester in hopes of keeping all tainted seafood from reaching the consumer market.
To further help seafood processors from obtaining fish from unknown sources, the FDA has also implemented an inspection assignment to ensure proper documentation.
The protocol initiated by the FDA and NOAA to reopen closed areas will come into play when the NOAA is assured that seafood in that area meets FDA standards and is safe for consumer consumption.
“As remediation efforts continue, it may be possible to alleviate some of the economic harm caused by the oil spill by reopening previously closed areas,” said Dr. Lubchenco.
The FDA, responsible for the quality and safety of products that reach the American public, has set up a hot line to report any seafood safety concerns.
“We encourage fisherman and consumers to report potential contamination to 1-888-INFO-FDA,” said Commissioner Hamburg.
More about NOAA, Fda, Oil spill, Gulf of Mexico, Seafood
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