FDA Allowed Unsafe Levels of Contaminants in Seafood after BP Oil Spill, Study Finds

NRDC Petitions Agency for Stronger Safeguards to Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON (October 12, 2011) – The Food and Drug Administration seriously underestimated the cancer risk from contaminants that can accumulate in seafood when the agency allowed commercial fishing to resume in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill disaster, a new study published today found.

The study was published online today by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, authored by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and Gina Solomon of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

They found that by using flawed assumptions and outdated risk assessment methods, FDA allowed up to 10,000 times too much contamination and failed to identify risks for pregnant women and children.

Based on these findings, NRDC today filed a petition asking FDA to protect the public, especially pregnant women, children, and people who eat a lot of seafood, by setting a standard that limits the level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in seafood. PAHs are chemicals found in oil, industrial pollution, and urban run-off that can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological delays and liver damage.

“Our findings add to a long list of evidence that FDA is overlooking the risks from chemical contaminants in food,” Rotkin-Ellman said. “We must not wait for people to get sick or cancer rates to rise, we need FDA to act now to protect the food supply.”

The study concluded that “FDA risk assessment methods should be updated to better reflect current risk assessment practices and to protect vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children.”

Link to the study: “Seafood Contamination After the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Risks to Vulnerable Populations: A Critique of the FDA Risk Assessment” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1103695 )

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman details the study in her blog here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mrotkinellman/fdas_bad_science_agency_allows.html

NRDC's legal petition requesting FDA to protect the public from PAHs:


Gina Solomon’s blog: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gsolomon/its_national_seafood_month_and.html

More information on NRDC's campaign to “Fix FDA” and ensure the safety of food and personal care products can be found here: www.nrdc.org/fixfda