Media watch: Slurpers beware

 By far the most prominent seafood-related news story in the mainstream media over the past two weeks was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposal to require post-harvesting controls on raw, live oysters, effectively banning their sale from April to October.

Newspapers from Washington, D.C., to Opelousas, La., not only covered the plan and the ensuing backlash from the seafood community, but they also blasted the decision in editorials.

All the editorials collected by SeafoodSource pointed out that Vibro vulnificus-related deaths occur primarily in people with weakened immune systems; people who are already advised not to eat raw oysters. Editorial headlines ranged from "FDA should shuck away intrusive oyster rule" to "FDA should get out of our gumbo."

It's nice to see the mainstream media not only getting it right, but also taking a stand against a draconian plan and giving the seafood industry a voice. opinion writer David Freddosco said: "[Vibrovulnificus] kills about 15 Gulf oyster eaters each year nationwide. Each time you eat one serving of oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, your risk is a bit less than one-in-a-million of contracting V. vulnificus. Your chances of dying are half that. The government has yet to ban automobiles or cigarettes, two conveniences known to be mass-killers. But in 17 months, the FDA will nearly shut down a multi-million dollar industry, put thousands out of work and bar millions from their passion for oysters — all because a handful of people died who should not have been eating raw food in the first place." in Panama City, Fla., also took aim at the damage the ban would cause to the Gulf oyster industry: "The costs of regulation are not justified by the threat. In a nation of more than 300 million people that means the government is considering crippling an industry to protect 0.00000005 percent of the population. The FDA should back off."

The Times-Picayune in New Orleans called the FDA's decision a "misguided effort," adding, "The agency doesn't seem to have even considered the devastating impact on Louisiana's oyster industry."

In Mobile, Ala., the Press-Register also came down hard on the FDA: "The FDA sledgehammer might do more damage to oystermen than to the rare bacterial infection the agency aims to eliminate," suggesting that the agency redouble its efforts to educate consumers about the health risks association with Vibrio.

Perhaps the Daily World in Opelousas, La., put it best in its editorial, "Oyster rules aren't worth shucks."

"We'll side with the industry. The seafood industry in general faces enough obstacles — foreign competition, overfishing, fisheries loss and so on. They shouldn't be forced to become substitute mommies for people who ought to take some responsibility for their own well-being. Producers who knowingly sell tainted oysters deserve all the punishment that can be heaped upon them. But if they act responsibly, let the slurper beware."

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