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Florida Dept. of Health Warns Against Risks of Eating Raw Oysters after Bacterial Illness Outbreak in Other States

plate of raw oysters 125.jpgThe Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are warning Floridians not to eat raw oysters harvested from an area of the southern tip of Hood Canal in Washington after an outbreak of illness caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria.  Records indicate that the raw oysters were distributed to Florida.  Raw oysters harvested from “growing area 6” in Hood Canal from July 3, 2007 and after, have caused at least six people to become ill in California and Washington.  No cases linked to this outbreak have been reported in Florida.

{sidebar id=1} Symptoms of the illness, called vibriosis, include watery diarrhea, often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.  Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last no more than three days.  Severe disease is rare and occurs most commonly in people with weakened immune systems.  Those who believe they have experienced these symptoms after consuming raw oysters should consult their health care provider and contact their local health department.

The Washington State Department of Health has closed the growing area associated with the illness and has asked commercial oyster harvesters and dealers who obtained oysters from this area to recall them.  Consumers who have recently purchased oysters should check with the place of purchase and ask if they were harvested from the affected growing area.

Those with weakened immune systems, including people affected by AIDS, chronic alcohol abuse, liver, stomach or blood disorders, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease should avoid eating raw oysters, regardless of where they are harvested.

The FDA advises that consumers can continue to enjoy oysters in many cooked preparations by doing the following:

At Restaurants and other Foodservice Establishments:

  • Order oysters fully cooked.

In the Shell:

  • Purchase oysters with the shells closed.
  • Throw away any oysters with shells already opened.
  • Never allow raw seafood to come into contact with cooked food.
  • Boil oysters until the shells open.  Once shells open, boil for an additional three to five minutes.
  • Steam oysters by adding oysters to water that is already steaming and cook live oysters until the shells open.  Once open, steam for another four to nine minutes.
  • Use smaller pots to boil or steam oysters.  Using larger pots, or cooking too many oysters at one time, may cause uneven heat distribution, which may cause the oysters in the middle to be under-cooked.
  • Discard any oysters that do not open during cooking.

Shucked Oysters:

  • Never allow raw seafood to touch cooked food.
  • Boil or simmer shucked oysters for at least three minutes or until the edges curl.
  • Fry at 375 F for at least three minutes.
  • Broil three inches from heat for three minutes.
  • Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes.

For more information, visit or call 1-888-INFO-FDA.

This article originally published on August 14, 2007.

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