Senate Ag Committee wants world to know about Florida's untainted seafood
Nearly half of Floridians polled by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last week remain concerned about the safety of Gulf Coast seafood even though no tainted seafood has been reported in Florida in the nine months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a department official told the Senate Agriculture Committee this morning.
"Florida seafood is the safest, most inspected seafood in the world," said Nelson Mongiovi, the agency's marketing director. "It is a consumer perception."
The agency surveyed 400 people throughout the state in May, October and January about consumer impressions of seafood after the explosion. People expressing concern about seafood safety dropped from 83 percent in May to 48 percent in January, but the figure remains too high for the agency's liking, he said.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said the seafood industry, BP and even the agriculture department should develop a strong ad campaign "trumpeting that message to the whole planet," which he said would negate the industry's future losses from the spill and save BP money in claims. "When are they (BP) going to quit paying for no demand?" Hays said.
Doing that -- and bringing back a "Florida Gulf Safe" seal on seafood that 49 percent of consumers found assuring -- naturally requires more advertising money, Mongiovi said, and the agency is fresh out, at least for awhile. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, questioned why BP would not pick up those costs, as Mongiovi should not "have to come to the Legislature for something that is not the fault of the state of Florida." Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has made marketing efforts a priority, Mongiovi said.