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February 14, 1997 - Issue Index

Seafood survey to find out fish consumption in state
By Renu Sehgal (February 14, 1997)

How much seafood do you eat? Nancy Balcom wants to know.

Balcom, an extension educator with the Connecticut Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at the University, is spending a year determining just how much seafood Connecticut residents consume.

"We're looking at who is eating what, how much and when," Balcom said. "We are also trying to get a handle on how much seafood harvested from Long Island Sound is actually consumed in Connecticut, purchased from local markets, retailers or restaurants."

The project is funded by a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Long Island Sound Programs. Balcom and colleagues Constance Capacchione of nutritional sciences and Diane Wright Hirsch of the Cooperative Extension System will compare the seafood consumption habits of residents in general with those of various subgroups, such as fishermen.

The project will help the state assess water quality standards to protect public health. State officials have issued consumption advisories for several contaminated fish species found in Connecticut waters, including Long Island Sound. In many cases, these advisories apply only to individuals considered higher risks due to age, health status or culture. The study will provide in-depth information on the local fish-eating patterns of high-risk groups to help officials determine these standards.

Members of higher-risk groups are being interviewed directly, while information from the general public will come from survey booklets mailed weekly to households. The packets include a diary to record all the seafood eaten in a 10-day period and a food frequency chart to list what kinds of fish and seafood they are eating, how often and in what quantity.

"The DEP will be able to use this information to see how we stack up to the national average -- currently 15 pounds per person per year," Balcom said. "They can then reassess the current water quality standards with data that better reflects what's going on in the state."

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