The United States is entering into a new era in which dwindling natural fisheries resources are forcing regulatory agencies to develop a more holistic approach to seafood safety and natural marine resource issues. Public health issues associated with seafoods can be grouped as (i) environmentally induced (i.e., natural or anthropogenic), (ii) process-induced, (iii) distribution-induced, or (iv) consumer-induced hazards. Similarly, loss of habitat and ecosystem degradation threaten the future viability of fisheries and have important ramifications for seafood safety. In the United States, large-scale legistlative efforts are underway to reexamine regulatory food control systems. The driving forces behind these efforts are the discovery of new emerging pathogens for which little information is available and dramatic improvements in analytic technology that allow for detection of low levels of microbial and chemical contaminants in foods. The global nature of seafood trading issues and the worldwide implementation of new preventative food safety programs such as hazard analysis for critical control points are driving some of the efforts to build new scientific bridges that will reevaluate current risk analysis strategies. New scientific bridges are needed to close the gaps between the scientific community and society concerning the effects of anthropogenic impacts on seafood safety and the heatlh of coastal habitats and associated fishery resources. The driving force behind this latter issue is the realization that the United States has lost over half of its original coastal wetlands areas. Protecting, conserving, and restoring the health and safety of our fisheries resources will require an integrated approach of food science and fishery science.

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Author notes

Presented as part of an ILSI -sponsored symposium, Ensuring a Safe Global Food Supply, at the 83rd IAMFES Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington 30 June to 3 July 1996.