Gulf seafood safety inspections ramp up as oil spill spreads
NOAA and the FDA are teaming up to devise better guidelines for when federal waters should be closed because of the oil spill, and how Gulf seafood should be inspected.
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There, they will be instructed how to use the smell test to detect hydrocarbons in seafood – a technique that can be used not only at dockside, but also for inspections in restaurants and processing facilities.Skip to next paragraph
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The sniffing technique is common and was used following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, says Joan Bowman, a spokesperson with the International Food Protection Training Institute, a nonprofit in Battle Creek, Mich., that is partnering with NOAA and the FDA.
It allows inspectors to evaluate “a large amount of product very quickly and very cost efficiently as opposed to sending a lot of seafood to a lab for testing, which is time consuming and expensive,” she says.
More agents in the Gulf
The FDA is sending 50 agents into the Gulf region to help at all points of the screening process, said Meghan Scott, a spokesperson for the agency. They are expected to work alongside NOAA inspectors at dockside to monitor oysters, crab, and shrimp.
The FDA is also deploying a mobile laboratory to Tallahassee, Fla., where it will conduct chemical testing of sea life. Regional FDA laboratories in Arkansas, California, Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin will also be running samples by the end of June.
The results of the exhaustive sampling and screening process by both agencies will be used to redraft the protocol determining what factors are needed to reopen closed waters.
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