You could almost hear the collective Whew! from the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry (and lovers of oyster po’ boys, blackened redfish, and shrimp jambalaya) this spring when Donald Kraemer, Deputy Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, proclaimed: “We’re very confident that the steps that we have put in place to assure the safety of seafood have worked. We put in an extensive program of sampling, and the results have consistently been 100 to 1,000 times below our levels of concern. So, we’re quite confident that the seafood that’s in commercial channels is safe.”
His was but one loud voice in a chorus of government officials offering assurances about the safety of Gulf seafood after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals—even President Obama—all chimed in.
But a new study finds that the FDA seriously underestimated the health risks from contaminants in Gulf seafood.