UC Davis to test contaminated seafood from Gulf

July 15, 2010 8:00:14 PM PDT
Now that the oil leak has been capped, Gulf fisherman and seafood suppliers will look to get back to business, but it is estimated 180 million gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf and seafood must be tested to ensure its safety. UC Davis could become the only lab in California to conduct those tests.

There are blue crab, oysters and shrimp that were pulled from the Gulf of Mexico before the oil reached the shore, but they'll be tested at U.C. Davis as a baseline for the possibly contaminated seafood set to arrive in the coming weeks.

"Certainly seafood that can't move is probably more likely to be contaminated than say a fin fish that can actually swim away. All types of seafood are of concern and we're going to be testing a whole range of all different types," says UC Davis toxicologist Robert Poppenga DVM, PhD.

The California Animal Health And Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis has never tested food for petroleum contamination before, but now the lab has received $140,000 in new equipment from the US Food And Drug Administration.

When the lab begins testing potentially contaminated seafood from the Gulf in a few weeks; they'll be looking for an array of toxic chemicals.

"They're polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and there are about two dozen," says UC Davis chief chemist Linda Aston, Ph.D.

"Things like naphthalene, crylene, benzoate pyrene and others," says Poppenga.

Some of those chemicals have the potential to cause cancer in humans.

This lab is one of eight in the country that will be testing seafood pulled from the oily waters. The hope is to give consumers as far away as California confidence in what comes from the Gulf.

"I think that Californians consume Gulf shrimp, they consume oysters," says Aston.

Beyond the gulf disaster, the UC Davis lab will have the methods and equipment in place in case there's another event like the oil spill anywhere in the country.


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