CSPI: Don't forget about Vibrio
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is using the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its impact on the region's oyster industry to bring attention to one of its causes — raising awareness of the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.
In a press release on Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based consumer-advocacy organization called on federal and state officials to remind consumers that the health risks associated with Gulf oysters, namely Vibrio, still exist, as they reassure the public that Gulf seafood is safe to eat.
"We've seen several reassuring statements that seafood from the Gulf on the market is safe," said David W. Plunkett, a CSPI staff attorney. "While some Gulf oysters may be ‘safe' from oil contamination, that doesn't mean they are ‘safe' to eat."
Eating raw or undercooked oysters tainted with Vibrio can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain in healthy people but can be fatal for people with weak immune systems. The bacterium is present in higher concentrations during the summer.
Last October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed its intent to require post-harvest processing on raw oysters. CSPI praised the decision. But Gulf Coast politicians, the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, the Gulf Oyster Industry Council and other industry players condemned it.
About a month later, the FDA backed off, agreeing to engage with the Gulf oyster industry to determine the next steps in its plan for post-harvest processing controls on raw oysters.
"While everyone wants to support people in the Gulf right now, government statements that ignore well-known risks only mean that more could suffer unnecessarily," said Plunkett.