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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/9/10

The Great Gulf Oil Disaster-Seafood Hoodwink

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scontentsmaller">NOAA tests seafood for traces of oil, but not dispersant

BP, the Obama Administration and government agencies have lost much credibility in the last few months when it comes to reports on the Gulf oil disaster and its impact on communities on the Gulf Coast and the Gulf of Mexico itself. So, when one hears an Obama aide claiming that President Barack Obama will have seafood at his birthday party and is "confident in the quality of the Gulf of Mexico seafood," it's a logical reaction to wonder whether such a comment is part of a cover-up especially since more information on scientists finding specks of oil in crab larvae is being reported.

On Sunday, August 8th, AFP reported on White House energy advisor Carol Browner's statement on how guests at Obama's birthday party would be served seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. The report noted "on Friday the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA], which earlier deemed safe the seafood caught in waters open for fishing, said that some 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants that were poured into the sea to dissipate the massive oil slick was unlikely to show up in the food chain."

A remark from BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles saying he would "eat the Gulf of Mexico seafood" and "feed it to [his] family" was included. Suttles earned notoriety for lying not so subtly about blocking media from covering the Gulf.

The FDA asserts, "There is no information at this time to indicate that they (dispersants) pose a public health threat from exposure through the consumption of seafood." No scientific testing was cited to support the claim.

Such an assertion sharply contradicts or outright ignores university scientists with the University of Southern Mississippi and Tulane University in New Orleans who spotted the "first indications" oil was entering the Gulf seafood chain "in crab larvae" in last week of June. The scientists "found droplets of oil in the larvae of blue crabs and fiddler crabs sampled from Louisiana to Pensacola, Fla."

It sharply contradicts or outright ignores this young man who was eating oysters at a restaurant in Cornelius, North Carolina over a month ago and found tar inside at least one of the oysters he was served.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state governments have been testing the fish since the middle of July if not earlier. Data collection and analysis has been conducted to prevent contaminated seafood from entering food markets in the country. But, the testing has depended on "smell testing."

The Los Angeles Times reported on a team of seven sensory experts who "dip their noses into large Pyrex bowls of snapper, tuna and other raw seafood to test for even a whiff of the pungent oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico."

""The team uses seven sniffers, with an eighth as an alternate, Wilson said, "in case someone gets a sinus infection. Or eats bad beef."

To help cleanse the palate, or for a quick snack, bowls hold cut watermelon, sliced cucumbers, cooked corn and rice. The group works behind cardboard screens, like voting booths, to hide their reactions. They mark pass or fail, and any comments, on a score sheet.

Wilson offered to demonstrate. He lifted the lid of a Pyrex bowl of red snapper, leaned way down, and used his hand to fan fumes into his face. He took several shallow sniffs.

"I like to let the aromatics get in my head space," he said. He stood and considered the odor. "It smells like really good snapper," he finally declared.

He sniffed at his bare arm to give his nose a neutral scent. Then he stuck his face into a bowl of shucked oysters and sniffed again.

"Whoa!" he said. He staggered backward and blinked. "That smells off. I don't smell oil. I just don't like it'""

The Los Angeles Times noted that the scientists were not testing for dispersant.

Jason Dearen and Greg Bluestein on Huffington Post reported last week, "experts say smell tests may sound silly but are a proven technique that saves time and money. Moreover, they are the only way to check fish for chemical dispersants, though FDA spokeswoman Meghan Scott said government scientists are developing a tissue test. It is not clear when it will be ready." This appears to contradict what the Los Angeles Times reported, which is that scientists conducting smell tests were not testing for dispersant.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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