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article imageAw Shucks: BC health officials warning not to eat raw oysters

By Karen Graham     Aug 13, 2015 in Food
Vancouver - Vancouver Coastal Health officials are requiring local restaurants to cook oysters harvested in the province before serving them to consumers. The requirement does not apply to oysters harvested outside of British Columbia.
In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officials ordered the cooking of B.C. oysters because of an ongoing outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections related to the consumption of raw oysters harvested in British Columbia.
The statement noted the action was in addition to the warning given restaurants about the increased chance of gastrointestinal illnesses associated with eating all raw oysters.
According to VCH, 35 cases of Vibrio infection associated with eating raw oysters have been reported, although the numbers may be much higher because the majority of cases of foodborne illnesses are not reported. In 2014, only 16 cases of Vibrio were reported by the end of August.
British Columbia's long hot summer has been blamed for the Vibrio outbreaks, and most of the sufferers have been forced to endure three to seven days of fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and sometimes, bloody stools.
During hot summer weather, warmer ocean waters increase the concentration of naturally-occurring bacteria within shellfish. Remember they are filter-feeders. So shellfish like oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and cockles need to be fully cooked to kill the harmful bacteria that can easily be passed on to humans.
Marsha Taylor, a spokeswoman for the BC Center for Disease Control is quoted by station CKNW as saying, We’re putting this message out both to the public that will also hit the restaurants and we’re also doing follow up with every restaurant to make sure they are aware of the issue and we’re inspecting the premises.” She noted that some illnesses have been linked to raw oysters purchased ot self-harvested.
As an aside to this story, this writer lives in Virginia, and as far back as she can remember, there has been an unwritten rule about eating oysters. The rule says we can only eat oysters in months with the letter "R." So June through August are no-nos's for oyster consumption, and it makes sense.
More about Raw oysters, vibrio, hot temperatures, British columbia, vancouver coastal health
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