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Gov’t Gives OK to Gulf of Mexico Seafood

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The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has declared seafood from the Gulf of Mexico safe to eat. And now that a containment cap has kept a lid on the BP oil spill for two weeks, state-controlled fishing areas in Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi have slowly begun to reopen.

According to the FDA, smell tests on dozens of specimens from the area revealed barely detectable traces of toxic substances. In Mississippi on Monday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said the government is “confident all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that seafood harvested from the waters being opened today is safe and that Gulf seafood lovers everywhere can be confident eating and enjoying the fish and shrimp that will be coming out of this area.”

According to the Associated Press, the FDA has declined repeated requests to provide information about the toxic substances that were found, but the agency is mostly looking for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which have been linked to cancer. However, some critics are concerned the smell tests used by the FDA won’t detect the presence of chemical disbersants, some of which have little detectable odor.

Those critics include some Gulf fisherman. “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?” Rusty Graybill, an oysterman and shrimp and crab fisherman from Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, told the Associated Press. “I wouldn’t feed it to you or my family. I’m afraid someone’s going to get sick.”

Dawn Nunez, whose family operates a shrimp wholesale business in Louisiana, expressed skepticism when she learned of plans to reopen fishing grounds, the Associated Press said. “It’s nothing but a PR move,” she said. “It’s going to take years to know what damage they’ve done. It’s just killed us all.”

According to the Associated Press, Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday called on BP to fund a 20-year testing and certification program to restore confidence in seafood from the Gulf.

Meanwhile, scientists tapped by the federal government to establish the flow rate for the BP oil spillnow say about 4.9 million barrels of oil has been unleashed by the disaster. The new number, which averages out to about 62,000 barrels per day, exceeds all previous estimates.

This latest estimate is said to be the most precise so far, according to The New York Times. After BP capped the well on July 15, the scientists’ measurements could be reinforced by pressure readings within the well.

Under the Clean Water Act, the US government could fine BP $1.1 million for every barrel of oil spilled. If the spill is determined to be the result of gross negligence, the fine could increase to $4.3 million per barrel.

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