Cultural 'big deal': Seal oil makes menu at Alaska care home

MARK THIESSEN

State regulations didn't allow seal oil because it's among traditionally prepared Alaska Native foods that have been associated with the state's high rate of botulism, which can cause illness or death. That's changing for 18 residents at Utuqqanaat Inaat — in English, a place for elders — a part of the Maniilaq Health Association in the Chukchi Sea community of Kotzebue, about 550 miles northwest of Anchorage. The association has worked with partners in Alaska and the Lower 48 to develop a process to kill the toxin in seal oil and make it safe for consumption.