Recent experience indicates that promptly providing state and local seafood safety managers with key information and assistance during an oil spill response can help prevent unnecessary restrictions on seafood harvest. Efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration (ORR) to help facilitate and expedite the decision-making process of seafood safety managers after an oil spill include two recently published guidebooks on seafood testing and risk assessment. Of particular interest is a comparison of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) criteria established for seafood at past United States oil spills. Depending on assumptions made in the health risk calculations, criteria for shellfish ranged from 5 to 120 parts per billion (ppb) benzo[a]pyrene equivalents. Nearly all seafood samples analyzed at these spills passed established criteria, indicating oil spills in the United States have not posed significant risk to human health through consumption of PAH-contaminated seafood. Seafood marketability has more often been impacted, due to petroleum taint (off-odor or off-flavor). Evaluation of seafood marketability can be facilitated through employment of standardized sensory testing protocols for detecting petroleum taint, such as those recently published by NOAA.

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