05.03.2012

Health and Safety

Sometimes it can be hard to predict what will happen out in the ocean. Thankfully, the Gulf Coast is maintained and regulated by government programs that apply the strictest of standards to the harvesting and processing of Alabama Gulf Seafood. To put it simply, the hired hands of Alabama’s Gulf Coast stand behind a creed: they won’t serve you anything they wouldn’t serve their own families. But if you’re wondering about what exactly is involved in this seafood regulation process, here are a few points:

What about the oil? How are the coastal waters regulated?

It all starts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their first line of defense involves monitoring federal waters for the presence of oil; if they find any traces in or moving toward a particular location, they will immediately close that area to commercial and recreational fishing.

When are these waters reopened?

These areas are only reopened to fishermen after passing a strict inspection from NOAA. When they do reopen, everyone from the seafood industry to the restaurants and marketplaces can be assured that they’re dealing with fresh, safe seafood.

What happens after they’re reopened?

Once these areas are reopened, they’re still under critical surveillance from NOAA (just like the rest of the federal waters along the Gulf Coast). Ship-bound scientists keep a watchful eye on everything that passes through these fisheries, including oysters and shellfish.

In our state, the Alabama Departments of Agriculture and Industry (ADAI), Conservation and Natural Resources (Marine Resources Division) (ADCNR/MRD), and Public Health (ADPH) are currently in the midst of a three-year seafood testing program. These Departments have been collecting seafood samples to make sure they’re clean and safe to eat; since testing began in October 2011, every screened sample registered well below the levels of concern implemented by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What about after the seafood is harvested?

When the seafood reaches our shores, it faces yet another round of inspection. NOAA, in conjunction with the FDA, has trained and assigned more than fifty employees throughout the Gulf Coast to act as seafood inspectors. If the samples do make it past this screening process, then they’re put through a chemical analysis to ensure that they’re clean, pure and safe to eat.

Is Alabama Gulf Seafood passing all of these tests?

Alabama Gulf Seafood is currently acing these rigid tests. Our seafood passes inspection by testing 100 to 1000 times lower than the FDA’s threshold of concern. And if you’re worried about what that threshold may be, know this: according to the FDA, you could eat 63 pounds of shrimp or crab, five pounds of oysters, or nine pounds of fish every day for the next five years and you still would not exceed the FDA’s level of concern.

Where can I find out more about these regulations?

To learn more about how the NOAA is monitoring harvesting areas, gathering and testing samples and training the scientists who carry out these programs, check out their mission statement on Keeping Seafood Safe.

To learn more about how the FDA determines the safety levels of Alabama Gulf Seafood, check out their Updates on the Gulf of Mexico.

To learn more about the seafood testing being conducted by the ADAI, ADCNR/MRD, and ADPH, check out their Alabama Seafood Testing Results.