FDA, Congress press for rules on shellfish safety

June 24, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

WASHINGTON -- Congress and the Food and Drug Administration are proposing strict inspections of the seafood industry to guarantee that consumers get safe shellfish.

The rules are designed to prevent the kind of poisonings that led to nine deaths in Florida last year.

The House Fisheries Management Subcommittee concluded at a hearing yesterday that recent improvements in seafood inspections still leave the public at risk of contamination, particularly from shellfish.

Thomas Billy, the FDA's chief of seafood safety, testified that his agency was putting the final touches on new shellfish regulations.

But members of the congressional panel said the proposed administrative rules may not be tough enough. They contemplated a proposed Shellfish Safety Act to give the FDA a more powerful legal tool to wield over the industry.

"My purpose is to protect the industry by restoring the public's confidence in shellfish," said Rep. Jolene Unsoeld, D-Wash., the bill sponsor.

But an industry representative complained about overregulation, media scare stories and exaggerated fears about seafood.

Seafood poisoning caused 5 percent of serious food-borne diseases from 1973 to 1991, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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