Eight U.S. Senators have urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “publicly and vigorously” defend the safety of Gulf seafood in the wake of last year’s oil spill. Led by Senator David Vitter (R-La.), the lawmakers signed a December 1, 2011, letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asserting that although “rigorous testing” has revealed that Gulf seafood is safe for human consumption, many consumers believe otherwise because of “misinformation and unscientific claims.” Vitter wrote a similar letter to Hamburg in November.

The effort was prompted by opposing claims made by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), whose scientists assert that FDA’s safety thresholds for Gulf seafood “significantly” underestimate cancer risks from seafood contaminants. NRDC published a study in Environmental Health Perspectives concluding that “FDA risk assessment methods should be updated to better reflect current risk assessment practices and to protect vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children.”