251682 Flaws in FDA assessment of Gulf Coast seafood following the BP oil spill

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 8:45 AM

Karen Wong, MD MPH , Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, MPH , Health and Environment Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA
Gina Solomon, MD, MPH , Health and Environment Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA
In 2010, the BP Oil Spill contaminated the Gulf of Mexico, which supplies approximately 30% of the seafood consumed in the US, with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration developed risk criteria to determine the allowable levels of PAH contaminants in Gulf Coast seafood. We evaluate the FDA risk assessment methods for their ability to protect vulnerable Gulf Coast populations. The current methods employed by the FDA significantly underestimate the risk of seafood contamination to vulnerable populations based on the assumed seafood consumption rates, body weight, and duration of exposure to contamination. Despite evidence that children and developing fetuses may be especially sensitive to adverse effects from PAH exposure, current estimates of risk are not adjusted for these subpopulations. Revised levels of concern that protect vulnerable populations are presented. Up to 14% of shellfish samples have contaminant levels exceeding the revised, health-protective levels of concern for pregnant women and children who are high end seafood consumers. FDA risk assessment methods for assessing contaminants in seafood should be reformed to better protect vulnerable populations such as Gulf Coast women and children.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify limitations in the risk assessment methods employed by the FDA to determine seafood safety after the BP oil spill.

Keywords: Food Safety, Risk Assessment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a physician working with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.