Vibrio-tainted crab from Venezuela sickens a dozen consumers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning consumers, restaurants, and retailers to temporarily stop using packaged crab meat from Venezuela after several consumers became ill after eating it.

As of 12 July, 2018, a dozen people have who ate Venezuelan crab meat have become infected with Vibrio parahaemolyticus in three states and the District of Columbia, the CDC said. The crab meat in question is labeled as fresh or precooked, is nonpasteurized, and is typically sold in plastic containers. 

“Based on the information available at this time, CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers not sell precooked fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela until further notice,” the CDC said. 

The CDC did not name suppliers of the crab meat. While the illnesses are linked specifically to Venezuelan crab meat, the outbreak has implications for all producers of packaged crab meat. 

“If you buy crab meat and do not know whether it is from Venezuela, do not eat, serve, or sell it. Throw it away,” the CDC advised consumers, retailers and restaurants.

The CDC, state and local health officials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are jointly investigating the outbreak, are trying to determine if the tainted crab meat has been distributed to additional states.

Consumers started reporting illnesses on 1 April. There have been four hospitalizations linked to the outbreak, but no deaths.

Public health officials in Maryland first detected the outbreak when they identified vibrio infections among people who ate crab meat. The FDA and regulatory officials in Maryland traced back the source of the crab meat from the restaurants and grocery stores where ill people bought crab meat.

“The Maryland Department of Health is warning consumers to avoid eating fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela because of potential risk of infection. The Department is investigating a cluster of vibrio infections in individuals who reported eating “fresh” (non-pasteurized) crab meat – from a plastic tub – with a label indicating that it is imported from Venezuela,” the agency said in a press release. 

The vibrio-tainted imported crab meat was sold under different brand names, the CDC said. The crab meat was prepared in both household and restaurant settings, in dishes such as crab cakes, seafood salad containing crab, and crab benedict, MDH said.

No domestic crab product has found to be associated with the vibrio-tainted cluster, it added.


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