Gulf shrimp safe: If you eat only four a week

by Mary Tutwiler

What's good for the goose may not be so good for the grouper. Findings by the Natural Resources Defense Council in a survey of over 500 people in the Gulf states show that residents along the Gulf of Mexico eat far more seafood than the Food and Drug Administration figured when the federal government announced that Gulf seafood, post BP oil spill, was safe to eat. "We're not saying not to eat Gulf seafood, not by a long shot," Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist at the NRDC, told the Times-Picayune. "What we are saying is our survey identified large numbers of people who are eating more seafood than the FDA assumes in its guidelines.My assumption is there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who are not protected by the FDA guidelines."

The formula the FDA is using to determine how much seafood Gulf Coast residents eat is approximately 16.4 seafood meals per month, including 9.1 meals of fish, 2.9 of oysters and 4.4 of shrimp and crab. The portion size is set at 5.6 ounces of fish, 4.2 ounces of oysters and 3.1 ounces of shrimp or crab.

"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," Solomon told the TP. "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 NRDC was particularly concerned about the amount of shrimp deemed safe to eat in light of shrimp being more inclined to retain higher concentrations of polycyclic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, highly carcinogenic compounds of oil that are known to remain in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is being urged to buy Gulf seafood to feed the armed services. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the secretaries of the Air Force and Army have talked to the Defense Commissary Agency, which operates a worldwide chain of stores for military personnel, pressing the agency to buy as much Gulf seafood as possible.

Mabus met with Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board on Monday, the TP reports, reaffirming Mabus'commitment to using the tools at his disposal to help the Gulf seafood industry recover from the damage the BP oil spill has done in reality and perception.

"He expressed what we wanted to hear," Smith told the TP. "He is in favor of the federal government buying seafood from the Gulf." Smith said he would like to see Gulf seafood as the choice throughout the public domain, "whether it's the military or prison systems or school systems."