Seafood-Testing Flaw: Assumption of How Much Seafood Gulf Residents Eat Is Way Too Low


Most critics of the government’s seafood-testing program have focused on the tests themselves, confronting issues like using whole shrimp or using de-veined and shelled shrimp. But a new study by a respected environmental group looked at one of the simpler flaws: The assumption of how much seafood a Gulf family eats is just way too low.

It’s like food companies that want to lower “per serving” calories by lowering the serving size – so a normal can of black beans becomes 3 1/2 servings to get the per-serving calories under 100. It’s one thing to game us in the grocery aisle, but entirely another to water down tests for toxic seafood.

Bob Marshall at the Times-Picayune is reporting that “… a survey of 547 coastal residents in the four Gulf states by the Natural Resources Defense Council found they had seafood consumption rates far higher than those being used by federal and state regulators to determine if contamination levels pose a risk to human health…those results may indicate a large population of coastal residents has been left at risk by the state and federal health standards, the NRDC said.”

One NRDC official was quoted as saying “…my assumption is there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who are not protected by the FDA guidelines.”

This should be huge news, and it illustrates once again the incredible disconnect between the federal position on seafood and reality.

How do you trust a process when a NRDC spokesperson has this to say about the real world: “When we looked at those parameters back in April, we realized the portion size for shrimp was about four jumbo shrimp eaten four times a month… but when we asked our partners on the Gulf Coast what they thought, they hooted and laughed, because they knew four jumbo shrimp won’t make one po-boy.”

The problem is that this lack of common sense leads to federal “testing” that is really only a sniff test, and the fact is it remains to be seen if seafood coming out of the Gulf is, indeed, safe for human consumption. Meanwhile, my clients who are commercial fishermen are still not fishing, because they are afraid of the effects. This report is yet another indication that they are correct to take a cautious approach – which is more than you can say for a testing process that dramatically low-balls consumption rates.

Read the report here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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