Remember last month when China banned shellfish from the US’ entire West Coast due to reports that geoduck clams in isolated areas of the Pacific Northwest region contained unsafe amounts of arsenic? As it turns out, those shellfish are completely safe to eat, the Seattle Times reports:
The state Department of Health reported Tuesday that it conducted its own tests on the edible portions of 36 geoducks from the Redondo Tract, finding the levels of inorganic arsenic well below China’s standard of 0.5 part per million.
Dave McBride, a toxicologist for the state Department of Health, said Washington did have one test result above China’s standard when a whole-animal test was conducted, including the inedible portion — the skin.
“Of the portions that were tested, the skin tissue had the highest concentration. But people do not generally eat the skin,” said McBride. “But, if you look at the whole samples, and average those, it falls below Chinese standard.”
Meanwhile, foods on this side of the Great Wall are frequently found to contain levels of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and seemingly every other metal on the Periodic Table way above the Chinese standard.
Some have described the seemingly overkill and wrongheaded ban as a purposeful power-play in the economic cat and mouse game between US and China, though others speculate it was simply due to a confusing export form. Said Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington, “This whole debacle might have been avoided if the export forms for the geoduck shipment had allowed for more specificity in identifying the source from which the shellfish were harvested.”
On the forms, he explained, the source of the shellfish is listed as “Area 67.” The issue is that while the controversial shipments of shellfish originated in small pockets of Washington and Alaska, “Area 67″ spans all the coastal regions from Northern California through Alaska’s Pacific Coast. As a result, Chinese authorities were forced to ban shellfish from all of Area 67.
He added, “This is not a reflection on China — they were just looking at the form,” Dewey said. “In my opinion, it’s the problem with the form and our inability to put more specific information on it.”
Either way, the ban has really “geosucked” for the West Coast shellfish industry, costing Washington State alone a $1 million loss in revenue, and resulting in mass layoffs.
The industry hopes China will lift the ban come Chinese New Years, during which they see record shellfish exports.