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Gulf States, Feds Report on Seafood

Release Date: 12/09/2005
Contact Information:

Contacts: Eryn Witcher, 202-564-4355 /, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (Kathleen Golden, 1-888-293-7020), the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (Robbie Wilbur, 601-961-5277) or the Alabama Department of Public Health (Dr. Neil Sass, 1-800-201-8208). FDA Kimberly Rawlings at 201-827-6242.

(Washington, D.C.-Dec. 9, 2005) The states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, along with U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have analyzed hundreds of samples of fish and shellfish from the waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. To date, the data show no reason for concern about consuming seafood from the Gulf region due to the hurricanes. The samples were analyzed for chemical and microbiological contaminants that could have been introduced by the hurricanes. The extensive seafood tissue sampling occurred in an area from the estuaries of New Orleans to Gulf Shores, Ala. The sampled areas included Lake Pontchartrain, Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay as well as the offshore areas of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Additional monitoring is currently in progress and results will be announced as they become available.

While many oyster harvest areas have been tested and re-opened, other areas remain closed until routine sampling by existing state regulated Molluscan Shellfish Programs determines that oyster harvesting can resume. Current data from analyses of fish and other shellfish from these areas show no reason for concern.

Health officials advise that consuming raw seafood always poses a potential risk from bacterial and viral contamination. This risk can be reduced by thoroughly cooking seafood.

As always, fishermen should avoid catching seafood in areas with visible oil sheens or slicks, and should only harvest live seafood. Consumers should follow proper sanitary practices when handling and preparing seafood for consumption. Also, health officials advise that following simple guidelines is appropriate when preparing fish and seafood at any time, not only after a storm event. These guidelines include keeping seafood cold until ready to cook and thoroughly cooking seafood. Consumers can further reduce risk by not eating the skin or organs, such as crab "fat." It is also recommended that broiling, grilling or poaching fish are healthy, low-fat methods of cooking.