Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Only Good Oyster is a Safe Oyster

It never ceases to amaze me how business interests have more sway with Congress than good, protective food safety measures. 

Two weeks ago, the FDA finally did the right thing and told the shellfish industry that, starting in 2011, gulf coast oysters would have to be post-harvest processed to kill the deadly bacteria vibrio vulnificus that they harbor in summer months. Vibrio vulnificus is fatal to 50% of those it infects, and causes devastating illness and loss of limbs in those lucky enough to survive it. Anyone who eats raw oysters and has diabetes, liver problems, AIDS, or cancer is particularly susceptible to the bacteria. Since 1995, 225 people have died simply from eating raw oysters.

The new FDA regulation would save at least 15-30 lives a year in the United States. Unfortunately, the oyster industry has convinced several members of Congress that the mere two cents per oyster it would take to make the seafood safe would be a hardship for the industry. They are now putting forth legislation to fight the FDA and reverse the ruling. 

If you're going to enjoy oysters raw, the only good one is a safe one.

Until our legislative officials get it right and realize that public health and saving lives trumps spending a few pennies more for a safer product, you can protect yourself by finding out what foods are making people sick. For information about recalls due to vibrio in oysters, as well as for all other contaminated foods, you can sign up for S.T.O.P. E-alerts.

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