Oil Spill

It’s been more than two years since the BP oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 people and led to the leaking of 5 million barrels of oil into the ecosystem, destroying miles of fragile coastline and poisoning generations of marine life.

Now, controversy is swirling around the safety of seafood from the region, as the Associated Press reports on photos showing a number of visible sores on fish that scientists say could indicate long-term environmental damage in the region, posing threats to food safety. But, officials from the FDA say the region’s fish are perfectly safe to eat, despite the evidence of lesions, deformities and other issues that environmentalists see as lingering environmental damage, with long-term risks to a number of species.

According to the AP, head of the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory Dr. Robert W. Dickey says that the photos represent “a low percentage of fish,” not a “seafood safety hazard.”

The FDA says retailers and wholesale fish sellers must abide by longstanding FDA rules on salable fish, and any animals that show signs of illness, parasites, infection or disease are not allowed to be sold for human consumption. But with the oil-contaminated fish, some symptoms might not be visible, such as traces of chemicals in tissue. Both federal and state laboratories tested more than 10,000 fish after the spill, with ongoing tests continuing today to ensure food safety. But some toxins can still build up in the animals and be slower to eliminate in some species.

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Image: USFWS/Southeast