In case you were wondering, there are between 60 and 70 people in the U.S. trained as expert seafood sensory assessors.
They work for NOAA or the federal Food and Drug Administration and are usually charged with inspecting seafood shipments for signs of decomposition.
A person becomes an expert through a combination of natural ability, training and practice, said Steven Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA's Seafood Inspection Program. The best testers can detect taint in concentrations as low as 1 part per million, he said.
"The issues that come up are just, literally, how sensitive their noses can be," he said. "Also, how repeatable their results are."
About 16 of those experts specialize in petroleum taint, said Wilson, with more experts being trained in this specialty every day. By the end of the summer, Wilson hopes to have at least 24 assessors "harmonized," a process that trains testers to detect oil and dispersants specific to the Deepwater Horizon spill.