Though not mandated, processing grows in the Gulf

The number of illnesses caused by the bacteria commonly linked to raw oyster consumption is rising. Vibrio vulnificus 

infections increased 43 percent in 2012, when compared to averages from 2006 to 2008, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control report on foodborne illnesses. The jump is even greater in a review of long-term trends, increasing by 116 percent in 15 years.

The CDC recommends thoroughly cooking all oysters to prevent potential illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has pushed for mandatory post-harvest processing (PHP) to rid oysters of the bacteria; in 2011 the agency wanted to mandate PHP for all oysters from the Gulf of Mexico during the warmer months, when Vibrio is most common.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Though the FDA has not yet implemented its plan, PHP has been increasing throughout the region that accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. oyster production, says Patrick Fahey of Ameripure Processing Co., in Franklin, La

“You actually have more PHP processors today than you did three years ago as well as additional harvesting restrictions for raw oysters,” he said. Harvesters of white-tag oysters, which indicates they are approved for raw consumption, must be under refrigeration within one hour of harvesting. “It has to be good refrigeration too,” said Fahey.   

Click here to read the full story that ran in the June issue of SeaFood Business >


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