Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The Safe Food Handbook calls oysters one of the most dangerous foods you can eat. I never eat raw oysters or even lightly cooked ones. But they are an easy food for me to give up, as I really find that slithery feeling unpleasant when a raw oyster wriggles down my throat.

The two main risks in oysters are Norovirus and bacteria from the Vibrio genus. Norovirus is no big deal, but those Vibrio bacteria are. Their members include the cholera bacterium. And that's what's been found in Florida oysters harvested from Area 1642 in Apalachicola Bay, Fla. between March 21 and April 6, 2011 - toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O75. (By the way, notice how late this recall is coming..It's now May). Area 1642 is a zone that stretches from north to south in Apalachicola Bay just on the east side of the bridge that goes from Eastpoint, Fla., to St. George Island, Fla. This is not the first time Vibrio bacteria have turned up in oysters from Florida.

As of today, nine people have been reported to be ill (as always, many cases do not get reported). All ate raw or lightly steamed oysters. So far no one has died, but the more toxic Vibrio certainly can prove fatal if the bacteria enter your bloodstream and multiply there.

Here are the typical symptoms: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. You would start to feel ill anywhere from a few hours up to five days after eating the raw or lightly cooked oysters. There may also be blood or mucus in your stools. In worst cases, the bacteria can get into your bloodstream. If so, the symptoms can be truly horrible and may include loss of skin, kidney failure and excruciating pain. Believe me, this is one of the worst possible kinds of food poisoning.

Certain kinds of people are much more at risk for becoming seriously ill from Vibrio than others: those who have cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, hepatitis or a suppressed immune system for other reasons (such as AIDS. In fact the FDA warns anyone with a liver disease never to eat raw or lightly cooked oysters. Some studies also suggest that others who are more susceptible include people with hemachromatosis, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease - and those taking a lot of antacid pills.

If you still have any of those recalled oysters in your refrigerator, throw them out! (They shouldn't be kept that long anyway). No oyster is worth your life.

To your good health,


Anonymous said...

Are fried oysters safe? Wouldn't the depp frying kill the bacteria?

Anonymous said...

How much of these infections are caused by the cumulative heavy pollution in bays and estuaries? Was this probelm as wide spread as 50 years ago? I doubt it.