Is the Gulf of Mexico seafood safe to eat?
If you Google "Gulf seafood safe" you'll mostly find articles on how the Gulf fishing industry is doing damage control. Commercial interests are seeking to reassure the public that Gulf seafood is okay, not toxic, safe to consume.
Every explanation requires, by the universal laws of human logic, that we inflict upon it the reason test: "Does this story ring true?" You willfully marshal all your conscious and unconscious powers and experiences to decide if a series of statements makes sense on a deep and authentic level.
MSM (Mainstream Media) seems united in shifting public focus on the tragedy of the fishing boats, seafood processing and packing plants, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and resorts on the Gulf coast, all the way up to Florida.
As our illustrious mainstream media keeps wringing its hands over the plight of Gulf fishing industry, questions loom largely behind the pat answers.
We question the primacy of the economic impact, while acknowledging the suffering in that realm of life, caused by the BP oil spill. BP must pay all economic loss claims. We predict that the health impact will be downplayed, dismissed in many cases, and soon forgotten.
In their rush to alleviate economic loss, the media's campaign of info-combat against public perceptions that the seafood is dangerous -- this emphasis seems absurd.
"How can we persuade them it's safe?" they moan, when the real question is: "How can we determine, on an ongoing basis that may last many years, the edible safety of Gulf seafood?"
First, prove that it's safe to eat Gulf seafood. Then worry about getting out your message promoting Gulf coast fishing and hotel/restaurant industries and tourism trade. Why should innocent, trusting, hungry consumers have to die for any industry?
The FDA, a colossal failure in keeping unsafe foods and drugs off the market, currently claims Gulf seafood is mostly safe.
Look at how pathetic their "advice" is on the FDA website. Only two major points are stated in their "key information" on Gulf seafood safety. Really beyond lame!
Seafood Safety Notes
Here is some key information on the safety of seafood from the gulf.
- Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not be concerned about the safety of seafood in stores at this time.
- Fish and shellfish harvested from areas unaffected by the closures are considered safe to eat.
Feel better now?
Gulf seafood might smell awful and taste horrible, but it's okay! Or maybe the NOAA "sniff testers" have declared it smells okay, so it must be safe! Eat it. Eat it. Eat it.
Ready to dive into that jumbo shrimp, crab legs, and oysters from the Gulf of Mexico? Let's all be happy, trusting, and supportive of the Gulf states -- by eating seafood that could have an extremely negative impact on your health???
Almost every time I turn on the television, there seems to be yet another Big Pharma drug taken off the market, the fact being announced by some law firm representing claimants harmed by the drug. Drugs that the FDA approved and declared to be safe to use.
A Washington Post article leads off with whining about how the Gulf fishing industry has a perception problem.
"Those who rely on the Gulf of Mexico's rich fishing grounds say there's a new crisis brewing - convincing skeptical consumers that the seafood they harvest and sell is safe to eat." -- Washington Post "Gulf seafood industry tries to shake an oily image"
Like we should be sorry that people aren't just chowing down on Gulf seafood, like it's their patriotic duty? Like eating tainted seafood will help the Gulf economy, so my family and I should die to save their fishing industry?
A perception problem?
Persuasion being the central problem with Gulf seafood?
They have an honesty problem and a research problem.
First, let's be totally transparent about efforts to ensure consumer safety. Forget putting a positive spin on food that could kill or seriously endanger the health of customers. Then let's publicize the research on the toxicity of seafood that has been soaked with oil and dispersants.
There are political and commercial dimensions involved in declaring an industry to have safe products. Remember the conflicting reports on Toyota? How much was user error vs. product failure? The facts are still being gathered on this one.
It's not a matter of choosing to trust government vs. trusting corporations. It's all about using your own reasoning ability and doing some investigation of your own.
The decision to declare food safe or unsafe appears to be a thornier debate, sometimes fraught with political implications, finger-pointing and, occasionally, debilitating fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.
"Government decisions on what should or should not be done with potentially contaminated food are often influenced by everyone who has a stake in the outcome," said Jay Shimshack, an assistant professor of environmental economics at Tulane University.
"In this case, we might reasonably expect the oil industry or its lobbying organizations to represent their own interests during the relevant policy-making process."
As a Louisiana fisherman stated, according to MSNBC -- "If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured oil and Dove detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat that fish?" asked Rusty Graybill, an oysterman and shrimp and crab fisherman from Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. "I wouldn't feed it to you or my family. I'm afraid someone's going to get sick."
Toxicity levels in Gulf of Mexico seafood will tend to expand and escalate, not diminish, as time progresses, due to the contamination of segments of the food chain, i.e. large non-toxic fish eating small tainted fish. Heavy metals, which destroy the brain and central nervous system, particularly tend to bio-accumulate up the food chain.
According to Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in an interview at Change.Org, safety testing must be an ongoing process for many years to come, because it's going to get worse, not better.
How long do we need to be vigilant in monitoring Gulf seafood?
Levels of some of these chemicals will paradoxically increase through the food chain over time—we could see worse problems with food safety several years from now.
Right now in many areas, fish and shellfish are grossly contaminated.
Over time, those contaminants will settle into sediments and then make their way into the food chain. They will start to bioaccumulate. Right at the time when the Gulf starts to look better might be the biggest danger time.
There’s going to be pressure to reopen Gulf fisheries for economic reasons, but any reopening needs to be backed up by clear data. It’s going to be easy when the fish doesn’t stink of oil anymore to assume it’s safe, and that would be a big mistake.
Should we worry about dispersants?
Dispersants try to save marshes and birds from surface oil slicks by literally just sweeping the problem under the surface of the Gulf. There it can potentially have a greater effect on fish in deeper waters, so it’s trading one set of problems for another.
Dispersants aren’t cleaning up anything—they’re just moving the oil around.
Data came out recently that indicates that the combination of oil and dispersant is actually far more toxic to aquatic species than the oil alone or the dispersant alone.
Why is the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico red or orange in color?
Experts are not in agreement about this, one of many mysteries connected with the oil spill.
“We believe that the reddish brown color is indicative of the formation of a water-in-oil emulsion, called a mousse. These [oil slicks] typically have colors other than black, but with this oil, the colors are fairly vivid.
We still don't know the exact cause of the color change but it probably as something to do with the water/asphaltene interactions,” explains Louisiana State University professor emeritus Edward Overton, who is a member of the team conducting investigations into this issue.
He adds that asphaltene compounds are essentially remnants of the green plant pigment called chlorophyll, and that the chemicals make up an important part of the crude oil.
So much confusion. Unanswered questions. Shady dealings. Lack of oversight. Illogical declarations. Suspicious motives. Political intrigue. Bi-partisan bickering. Financial liability. And sorrow to untold multitudes of humans, birds, turtles, fish, crustaceans, and other marine creatures.
While we indeed feel bad about the Gulf economy being devastated by the BP oil spill, is that good enough reason to expose our families to grave potential danger?
What do you think about all of this?
Read more about the safety of Gulf seafood:
FDA "Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Update" as of Aug. 5, 2010
WebMD "Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico...Safe?
Washington Post "Gulf seafood industry tries to shake an oily image"
MSNBC "FDA Declares Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat"
CNN "Gulf Coast chefs, fishermen fight tide of misinformation"
The Seattle Times "Who's Making Sure Gulf Seafood's Safe to Eat?"
Huffington Post "Gulf Oil Spill: Cleaning Animals is Largely Futile, Scientist Says"
Christian Science Monitor "Top 5 bottlenecks in Gulf oil spill response"
The Economist "Gulf Oil Spill: What Lies Beneath?"
Softpedia "Experts Puzzled at Red Gulf Oil Slick"
LiveScience "Why is the Gulf Oil Slick Red?"
Sierra Club "BP Oil Disaster Interactive Map"