New analytical methods test for oil-tainted seafood after BP Gulf spill

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

New analytical methods test for oil-tainted seafood after BP Gulf spill

Related tags Thermo fisher scientific Petroleum

Significantly reduced analysis time to aid fast and reliable throughput are benefits claimed by Thermo Fisher Scientific for two new analytical screening methods to detect oil contamination in fish and oysters.

The company said the methods were developed by it recently-formed Global Food Safety Response Center in Germany in response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Dreieich-based center, which was unveiled just three months ago, began working on the new test methods for seafood and fin fish soon after the disaster involving the BP oil rig began to unfold, Thermo Fisher marketing director for food safety Gerry Broski told

Speed and volume

The methods have been designed to reveal petroleum contamination in oysters and fish, specifically hydrocarbons and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Scientists working in the facility used oil samples collected from the Gulf region to develop step-by-step testing procedures that can be quickly implemented by food and environmental laboratories to protect consumers from contaminated seafood, added the company.

Such testing will be necessary for years to come, said Broski, with accuracy and the ability to process large volumes of samples paramount.

“The method is significantly faster than existing methods, typically cutting sample analysis from days to hours,”​ he said.

He added that the accuracy for measurement of PAHs was determined by spiking NIST crude oil standard into oysters and following the full extraction and cleanup procedure.

“Background contamination made it impossible to make an accurate estimate of the recoveries of the lower mass PAHs,”​ said Broski. “However average recoveries of (B(a)A, B(a)P, B(g,h,i)P, and I(1,2,3-c,d)P were 124, 92, 81 and 86 per cent respectively. Bearing in mind that the method is intended as a semi-quantitative screen this accuracy was deemed to be satisfactory.”


Thermo Fisher has submitted its processes to the AOAC and is hoping to receive the verdict from the internationally recognised body that validates standardised, chemical analysis methods within weeks. . The methods have also been supplied to the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). Detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) documents can be downloaded from Thermo Fisher Scientific's Gulf Coast Oil Spill Resource Center at

"We created our global Food Safety Response Center to help our laboratory customers around the world quickly mobilise during a food contamination crisis, using our depth of capabilities to develop methods that enable them to respond to potential threats,” ​said Marc N. Casper, president and chief executive officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific. "The incident in the Gulf is a clear example of the type of threat the Center can address through our leading analytical technologies and applications expertise.”

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

Related news

Follow us


View more