Testing, marketing of Gulf seafood expanded


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
August 17, 2010

Sea Grant programs from Florida to Texas on Wednesday announced that they’re launching a seafood-monitoring program that will expand testing for oil and conduct research on seafood safety.

The goal is to assure Americans that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat by presenting their findings in a “readily available and easily understood” manner so that it’s simple for the average consumer to digest.

Despite the efforts of agencies such as the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which last week rolled out a Florida Gulf Safe logo, convincing consumers that Gulf seafood is fit for consumption remains a big challenge.

“We’re dealing with a perception problem due to the oil spill that a lot of the seafood has been compromised. But the true facts are that the vast majority of the seafood is safe to consume,” said Florida Sea Grant seafood specialist Dr. Steve Otwell on a YouTube clip posted on the LSPMB website. “So we’re going to generate the evidence for the public and for buyers so that they have a degree of confidence.”

The seafood-monitoring program is an expansion of the existing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, which identifies, evaluates and controls food-safety hazards at the production level.

“This is an existing HACCP program that we are going to improve on and take it to a higher level of food safety to include oil contamination. A major part of this will be training processors in the ability to evaluate seafood [for oil],” said Louisiana Sea Grant seafood specialist Dr. Jon Bell.

“A major problem is the public perception that the product isn’t safe. But, indeed, it is if it goes through these evaluations,” he added. “A major component of this improved seafood safety program will be the marketing to consumers.”

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reassured the public that Gulf seafood is safe to eat. The agency tested 153 finfish (grouper, snapper, tuna and mahimahi) from an area about 115 miles northeast of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak and found no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors.

Also last week, NOAA reopened more than 5,000 square miles of the Gulf to commercial fishing, though 22 percent of Gulf waters remain closed.

President Barack Obama has also been promoting Gulf seafood.

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