Nightly News   |  August 05, 2010

Safety of Gulf seafood in question

Most of the fishing waters off the Gulf coast has reopened, so, the government has started focusing on the state of seafood from the areas. NBC’s Ron Motts talks discusses residents’ apprehensions on whether it’s safe to eat.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: With some questions on this oil well now answered, there are new ones, including a lot of uncertainty about the after affects of all that oil and the chemicals that were poured into the gulf. One of the most pressing, is gulf seafood safe to eat? NBC 's Ron Mott joins us now from Drago 's Restaurant in Metarie , Louisiana . Ron :

RON MOTT reporting: Hey, Lester , good evening to you. Drago 's hopes to sell a lot of gulf seafood tonight, including their very popular char-grilled oysters, seafood that continues to be the focus of intense inspection. In Pascagoula , Mississippi , the catch of the day netted a lot of attention as government inspectors literally put seafood to the smell test, sniffing, cutting and processing tissue samples. And officials say the fish, shrimp and oysters pulled from the gulf are safe to eat, showing no signs of oil contamination so far.

Mr. JOHN STEIN (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration): NOAA is working hard, and a lot of people are working hard to get the word out that the seafood is safe.

Mr. MICHAEL PHOTAL: ...shrimp, out of the gulf.

MOTT: Today at Dorignac Supermarket near New Orleans , fresh local seafood was a steady seller.

Mr. PHOTAL: Thank you so much . You have a nice day , sir.

MOTT: Though manager Michael Photal says some customers aren't yet ready.

Mr. PHOTAL: I haven't had too much resistance overall. But you do have a handful of customers that are quite apprehensive about any seafood products from Louisiana .

MOTT: Customers like Gale Merricks , who says she has stayed away from the seafood counter ever since the oil disaster began.

Ms. GALE MERRICKS: I'm skeptical about it, and I have been. I used to do po-boys, I used to do Oprah gumbo, I used to do -- I don't do it.

MOTT: Such resistance is causing concern. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants BP on the financial hook for long-term testing and marketing of gulf seafood . Meantime, seafood platters were on the move during the lunch rush at Drago 's.

Mr. TOMMY CVITANOVICH (Drago's Seafood Restaurant): Our seafood is the most scrutinized, the most checked, the safest seafood around.

MOTT: But for at least one seafood lover, only the test of time will get her biting again.

Ms. MERRICKS: I got a po-boy just last week. I mean, I'm still standing. I'm still living, but...

MOTT: Now, the vast majority of people we met today at the supermarket say they are confident in gulf seafood . And many say it is their duty to continue to support this multibillion-dollar industry, so vital. Lester :

HOLT: All right, Ron Mott , thanks.