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Is it safe to eat Gulf seafood after the BP oil spill? 

Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Rose Nguyen

Is it safe to eat Gulf seafood after the BP oil spill? I want to serve oysters and shrimp over the holidays, but I am worried about making anyone sick.

Oysters, shrimp, crab and fin fish from the Gulf coast are safe to eat, according to the FDA and several unbiased organizations and researchers. While few of us were comforted by the "sniff test" that dominated headlines last summer, Tim Fitzgerald, Senior Policy Specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund (a nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any government agency) assures me that "the scientific rigor of the testing is good". Dr. Fitzgerald, who tends to be more precautionary than the FDA, says "I would eat raw oysters from the Gulf." The only health effects from the contaminants, says Fitzgerald, occur "if you eat seafood from the Gulf continuously and over a long period of time". Since the average American eats a paltry five ounces of seafood a week-- upwards of 80% of which is imported-- this is a non-issue.

It is also important to note that by serving Gulf seafood, you are helping the fishermen in the Gulf—many of whose livelihoods may be more endangered by the spill than was any creature of the sea.

Recipe: Oyster Dressing from Southern Living