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SEAFOOD INDUSTRY AGREES WITH GOALS OF 'CHEFS'; TAKES ISSUE WITH QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT SEAFOOD SAFETY

SEAFOOD INDUSTRY AGREES WITH GOALS OF 'CHEFS'; TAKES ISSUE WITH
 QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT SEAFOOD SAFETY
 ARLINGTON, Va., March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Fisheries Institute issued the following:
 The National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the largest national seafood industry association, today responded to "CHEFS" allegations about seafood safety and contamination.
 "The goals of 'CHEFS' are noble and we support their efforts on behalf of mandatory seafood inspection legislation, but it is important to reassure consumers that there are extensive seafood inspection programs in place designed to ensure the safety of seafood products, and products are routinely tested to address questions of chemical contamination," said Lee J. Weddig, executive vice president of NFI. "The Food and Drug Administration, which administers these programs, will remove any product from the market if it does not meet exacting federal standards for quality or chemical content."
 Currently, seafood safety is assured by both state and federal agencies. The FDA, through its new Office of Seafood (created in 1991), expends more than $40 million to regulate seafood products, more than for any other food it oversees.
 Simultaneously, a growing percentage of seafood processors and distributors is participating in voluntary, supplemental federal inspection programs, which can cost individual companies up to $150,000 per year. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. domestic seafood supply is currently inspected under this program.
 "Despite the extensive programs already in place, NFI supports seafood inspection legislation to assure continuity and expansion of these efforts and to provide a means of rapidly responding to changing conditions in the environment, new technology, and to expanded world trade in seafood products," said Weddig.
 The Centers for Disease Control in an analysis of foodborne illnesses reported from 1978 to 1987 attributed only 4.8 percent of all cases of illness to fish and seafood products (including raw molluscan shellfish). The FDA, using this data and factoring in estimates of unreported illnesses, calculated a risk of illness from fish and seafood to be 1 in 250,000 (comparably, the risk from poultry is 1 in 25,000); if raw molluscan shellfish is excluded, the risk of illness declines to 1 in 2 million.
 The former commissioner of the FDA, Frank Young, testified before Congress in 1989 that there was no indication that seafood-related illnesses were increasing even though per capita consumption of seafood had increased by nearly 25 percent since 1982.
 "No food is without risk. Seafood is no exception. One thing that is constantly overlooked when discussing food safety questions is the role of the food handler. The Centers for Disease Control attribute 70 to 80 percent of all foodborne illnesses to improper handling of food products, both in the home and at the food service level," added Weddig. "The participation of chefs and food service professionals in food safety issues is very positive, but government inspection is not a silver bullet that will eliminate every problem with foodborne illness."
 The National Fisheries Institute provides financial and technical support to programs developed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation designed to train food service personnel in proper sanitation and handling procedures.
 The NFI is a non-profit trade association of 1,000 companies involved in all aspects of the U.S. fish and seafood industry -- producers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, brokers, importers, exporters and members of allied supportive industries. The institute provides government relations, technical, promotional and public relations services in support of industry objectives and goals.
 -0- 3/3/92
 /CONTACT: Allison Wheeler, Clare Vanderbeek or Emily Holt of the National Fisheries Institute, 703-524-8881/ CO: National Fisheries Institute ST: IN: SU:


TW-SB -- DC020 -- 4563 03/03/92 15:14 EST
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Date:Mar 3, 1992
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