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Seafood Safety Information Centered at University of California

The Issue

Since the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, attention has focused on the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Many fish are at risk: blue crabs, crawfish, oysters, shrimp and fish (about 86 species including albacore, channel catfish, red snapper and tilapia). The impact on the nation’s seafood industry and consumer confidence could be devastating.

In a June 2010 telephone survey of 1,076 consumers conducted by University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center, Louisiana State University AgCenter and the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, 54% of respondents said the oil spill has affected their seafood consumption somewhat, 44% said they will not eat Gulf seafood, and 31% said they will eat less seafood regardless of its origin. Further, 89% said they are concerned about the spill’s effects on Gulf seafood, while 50% are “extremely concerned.”

What Has ANR Done?

To help prevent oil-tainted seafood from reaching consumers, Pamela Tom, UC's Seafood Network Information Center (SeafoodNIC) director, joined a national team to disseminate information on seafood safety steps and monitoring for contaminants in seafood shipments and harvests from unapproved waters. Tom worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Seafood Inspection Program, Louisiana State University and the University of Florida.

The team developed a strategy to convey the notice and monitoring procedures to Gulf fish growers, harvesters, and processors. As part of the effort to inform Gulf states and national seafood buyers, she posted information on SeafoodNIC, a UC website of science-based seafood safety and quality information.

The Payoff

SeafoodNIC is recognized by seafood agencies and institutions worldwide.

SeafoodNIC is a timely information source that is available to consumers and the seafood community. The website averages 395,000 visits annually. Since launching in April, the SeafoodNIC oil spill web page (http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/organize/oilspills.htm) had recorded 742 visits as of August 2010.

Clientele Testimonial

"SeafoodNIC is a vital resource and public service to the California and global seafood community. This website is the only publicly accessible ‘go to’ source on seafood safety and quality issues.” - Rob Ross, California Fisheries & Seafood Institute executive director.


Supporting Unit:

UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, and UC Sea Grant Extension Program
Pamela Tom, pdtom@ucdavis.edu, (530)752-3837