I watched a shopper and fishmonger at a high-end Seattle grocery debate the safety of a pile of succulent-looking, fresh, jumbo shrimp in the seafood case.
The shrimp weren’t from Thailand, Vietnam or even Mexico. They were from the Gulf, from the waters off Louisiana or Mississippi. They weren’t frozen, packed months ago before BP’s oil rig blew up, sank, and began spewing millions of gallons of hazardous hydrocarbons over almost everything.
Fish suppliers across the country have sold off much of the frozen Gulf products they were hoarding. But now new, freshly caught, Gulf goodies are again showing up in restaurant kitchens and on the chipped ice of good fishmongers.
Good chefs and persnickety consumers have long coveted the taste of shrimp, crab, oysters and fish from the Gulf.
On Monday, a gaggle of top chefs from around the country went to Grand Isle, La., to confirm for themselves the safety of the Louisiana seafood. Many promised the shrimpers, crabbers and fishers that they would eagerly use what they catch as long as it’s safe.
There is fresh seafood in the pipeline and according to Louisiana State officials the supplies are gradually increasing as more harvesting grounds are declared safe from oil and dispersants.
Everyone knows the threat is real and that availability could change. Things such as the weakening Hurricane Alex, or those storms that will surely follow, can force the still-surging oil back over previously safe breeding ground.
Consumers should be confident in the quality of what’s being offered. I think that buying seafood from the Gulf is a much safer gamble than consuming the virtually untested imported seafood when inundates our food supply.
While food-safety activists say barely 2 percent of the imports are inspected by understaffed FDA port inspections, there is an elaborate and intricate system for ensuring the safety of food from the Gulf. If you want more information, here is a link to a story I wrote this week for AOLNews.