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Federal Lab Ends Intensive Testing of Gulf Seafood

By Rhonda Miller | Published 30 Jun 2011 08:55pm | comments
Calvin Walker is the lead analyst at NOAA Fisheries National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula.

The federal government has stopped intensive testing of Gulf seafood going on since the BP oil spill 14 months ago. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports there’s still a wide range of opinion on whether the testing proves seafood is safe.

One lab technician puts samples of Gulf seafood into a shaker at the National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula.  This quiet scene is different from a few months ago when the lab was humming with scientists slicing fish samples and sniffing seafood. Calvin Walker is lead analyst at the laboratory.

"We have completed all the sampling that was planned. We will now evaluate the data as a result of all that sampling and then determine what the scope of a long-term sampling plan will be," Walker said.

Ten thousand seafood samples from the oil spill have come through this lab. Walker says the last samples were taken June 15.

"Every sample we have tested to date has been anywhere from a hundred to a thousand-fold below any level of concern that’s been established by FDA. And there has been no, over the last year, no samples that have been anywhere close to being any sort of public health issue," Walker said.

But marine biologist Ed Cake of Ocean Springs has stopped eating seafood, at least from the area of the oil spill.

"We have evidence from private testing that there is and are minute amounts of PAH’s, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other contaminants from the oil, including the dispersant itself, and that these materials will work their way up the food chain," Cake said.

Lauren Taylor of Charlotte, North Carolina isn’t worried. She’s visiting  Biloxi with a church  group and is buying a big bag of fresh shrimp at a local seafood dealer.

"I got 11 pounds of shrimp because we wanted to do a shrimp boil tonight. I haven’t had any concerns, I mean everyone seems to say it’s safe so I’m gonna believe ‘em, " Taylor said.

Lots of other tourists and locals are in the shop. But many seafood lovers who used to buy from shops like this are waiting for more convincing evidence Gulf seafood is safe.  

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Calvin Walker is the lead analyst at NOAA Fisheries National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula.


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