Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images
Gulf seafood is still suffering from a lingering black eye. So much so, that earlier this month, 30 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him to disclose more information on the federal government's seafood safety work.
"Louisiana is suffering from a serious perception problem regarding its seafood, despite the fact that the fish we harvest is consistently being proven to be safe by several federal and state testing agencies," said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.
As recently as December, the seafood board's survey found that 71 percent of consumers still indicated a level of concern about the safety of consuming Gulf seafood.
In their letter to the President, congressional members write: "This lack of public confidence results not from a shortage of government data, but from an ineffectiveness in reporting this complex information to the American public."
"Seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most tested food products in the world, and the results consistently prove that Gulf seafood is entirely safe to eat," Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana told Slashfood.
Politicians aren't the only ones beating that drum.
Last week, higher-ups at NOAA, the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals penned an op-ed pointing to the safety of Gulf seafood and their rigorous testing standards. "The seafood has consistently tested 100 to 1,000 times lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the residues of oil contamination," they write.
Christine Patrick, NOAA spokesperson tells Slashfood that 100 percent of the fish sent to market is clean, and points to the government website that links to everything official about seafood safety.
"All the data is there," she says. "The species that were tested, where they came from, where they were caught, and exactly how the seafood was tested. It's completely transparent. Scientists understand how fish handle both oil and dispersant. Fin fish are able to excrete oil. They have the ability to do this the fastest, shrimp a little slower, and shellfish the slowest."
So how much more testing needs to be done to convince the public that Gulf Seafood is safe to eat?
It's not the amount of testing people are uncomfortable with, it's the communication of the testing and the testing results that people didn't understand or they felt wasn't truthful, says Environmental Defense Fund's Tim Fitzgerald.
"The overarching message that came from the government was that everything we've tested was far below levels of concern. That's a different message to reconcile with what the public saw on TV in terms of the disaster -- the extent of the oil, the oiled marshes, the oiled birds, the oiled beaches. Even if it were true, a lot of people have trouble believing it," he says.
- See shocking photos of the massive 2010 oil spill at The Huffington Post.com.