Waiter Is That Corexit In My Shrimp Cocktail?

So now it looks like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill did, indeed, contaminate the food chain:

The study, “Macondo-1 well oil-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in mesozooplankton from the northern Gulf of Mexico,” found that oil has contaminated zooplankton, one of the first links in the oceanic food chain.

“Traces of oil in the zooplankton prove that they had contact with the oil and the likelihood that oil compounds may be working their way up the food chain,” Dr. Michael Roman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science said in a statement accompanying the study.

Baby fish and shrimp feed on the tiny, drifting zooplankton, and then introduce contamination and pollution to the larger sea creatures in the food web.

Those larger creatures also include us, let me point out. Anything that eats shrimp is at risk of getting contaminated. And here we are nearly two years after the fact, and I’m sure a lot of people feel like everything is fine, go ahead and tuck into that shrimp special at your favorite local restaurant. Freedom! But two years is not nearly long enough for any of this stuff to be cleansed from the ecosystem.

I bring this up because I’ve been having a long-running battle with the seafood guys at Whole Foods about this. First, let me say: I rarely eat shellfish anymore because well, they’re seabugs, y’all! That lobster is just a giant cockroach! But Mr. Beale likes it and so I will occasionally cook shrimp for him, and sometimes I can forget crabs are big sea-spiders, if they’re chopped up in a crab cake and I don’t have to see the legs.

But ever since the BP oil spill I have avoided Gulf shrimp, and no amount of “oh you’re just being silly” cajoling will get me to change my mind, because of this:

That Ain't Natural & I Ain't Eating It

This is some gross orange-y gook that I often find when I clean Gulf shrimp and only Gulf shrimp. It looks just like Corexit and is found along the “mud line.” It also discolors the meat around it, and sometimes even a toughens the texture.

Now usually on the rare occasion that I buy shrimp I ask where the shrimp is from and if I’m lucky I can get shrimp from Savannah. Thanks to the USDA’s COOL laws, the store has to tell you where your food is from, and I am eternally grateful for this information (don’t get me started on grapes from Chile, people. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post). But on Monday all Whole Foods had was Gulf shrimp and once again I got into an argument with the guy about what that orange gook is. I even showed him the picture (taken the last time I made the mistake of buying Gulf shrimp), at which point he told me I was being silly and that these were teeny tiny eggs.

That is the second time someone has told me that these are shrimp eggs. Okay look, I know it’s been a few decades since I took biology class and I’m definitely not a fisheries biologist, but the mud line is not where one finds shrimp eggs. The mud line is the shrimp’s GI tract. That “mud” is shrimp shit. Shrimp do not shit out their eggs. If you’re a female shrimp and you have eggs, they are on the other side of your body, where the legs are. In fact, those little tiny legs are called “swimmerets” and are there so females can hold their eggs.


So people, if anyone tells you that the orange gook in your shrimp are eggs, please show them this picture and ask them how it’s possible, biologically speaking, for eggs to be where feces is. You can also let them that they are full of shit, if you wish. Just like your shrimp.

If you’re a fisheries biologist and can offer me any more insight on what this orange gook is, please weigh in. Until then, I’m going to assume this is some kind of oil-spill related contaminant, because I never saw it before the Deepwater Horizon disaster and I’ve never seen it in any kind of shrimp besides those from the Gulf. And let me be clear: before I started boycotting Florida for being racist fucktards, we used to go to the beach every summer and buy Gulf shrimp from those little refrigerated shrimp stands on the beach. I’ve cleaned a lot of shrimp in my day. But now Gulf shrimp seems to have orange slime in it and I ain’t eating it.


Filed under environment, Gulf oil spill

16 responses to “Waiter Is That Corexit In My Shrimp Cocktail?

  1. crackerjackheart

    Yuck. I haven’t eaten Gulf seafood since the spill happened. No amount of arguing could/can convince me that something gross wasn’t getting in the food chain from that.

  2. Frank Simpson

    Sigh…not to take anything away from what you say here. However, if you have a strong stomach, read “Plastic Ocean” by Capt Charles Moore & Cassandra Phillips. The writing quality is not always the best, but it will provide you with enough information to despair for the rest of your life. It is much worse than you might imagine. Think of it as a Silent Spring for the oceans…and consequently for us.

  3. One of those nice side effects of being vegetarian… however, I am sending the link to my daughter in Texas… I think this may be where she gets her shrimp from. 😦

  4. I lived on the Alabama gulf coast for ten years and cleaned a bazillion shimp pre-spill. That’s some nasty looking shit with which I’m not familiar.

  5. John

    A quick Google image search for “shrimp with eggs” clearly shows what shrimp eggs look like. They’re stored in a pouch along the swimmerets, as you said. The pouch is big and bulky and the eggs are beady. They are not elongated into a paste lining the entire abdomen.

    You don’t need to be a biologist to see the difference here. It’s like saying the third leg on that mutant frog is the former tail of the tadpole. Or that beak occasionally found in chicken nuggets is just a really big thick piece of the meat substitute they use.

  6. I really like Shrimp I’ve been thinking about the food chain…to bad this is terrible news & ScAry that the stuff is still legal to eat?

    • Frank Simpson

      I am generally very middle of the road and slightly left of center. But, the question is not whether the shrimp are safe to eat. After finishing “Plastic Ocean” (I mentioned the book in my earlier comment to this post), I can only conclude that nothing is safe to eat…anymore.

      Sigh 😦

      • Well the best alternative is to grow your own and what you can’t grow, buy from a local co-op, etc. We have a lot of great small, organic providers around here, Tennessee is so rural and there are even great meat providers but it’s EXPENSIVE yeeesh.

  7. Anna

    The government is now purchasing the gulf shrimp and feeding it to our troops!

  8. so whats the scoop on grapes from chile?

    • They’re fumigated with methyl bromide and sulphur dioxide for transport. Even the organic ones. A friend of mine got really really sick from them, he was ill for about 4 months.

  9. Susan Hayden Daniels

    The FDA has licensed seafood inspectors who do a “sensory inspection” of all the shrimp that are sold. This is how it works: Last year about this time shrimpers in the Gulf were still catching and selling shrimp. We did some independent testing that showed oil and Corexit in the “mud line” and the meat. We complained to the FDA. The FDA set up a 2 hour course for the shrimpers, not the wholesalers, to teach them how to inspect the shrimp. The course cost is $25. per person. The shrimpers use the bushel laundry baskets to move shrimp around on the dock. The “sensory inspection” means the shrimper looks at the shrimp to see if they are covered with oil, then the shrimper lifts the shrimp to his face and smells the shrimp to determine if they smell like Corexit or oil. If the see or smell oil they cannot sell the shrimp. If they do not see or smell oil or Corexit, they sign one piece of paper with the pounds of shrimp inspected by a “Certified FDA Seafood Inspector”. The receive a certificate suitable for framing. Now the shrimp have no eyes, so they just pinch off the head to sell them. True story.

  10. That’s gross. I’ve never seen anything like that on any shrimp. What about the grapes.

    • Chilean grapes are gassed with methyl bromide and sulphur dioxide for transport. Friend of mine got serious organ damage from it. Was sick for about 4 months, weak as a kitten. Took a year for him to fully recover.