The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just issued a warning following a number of illnesses linked to Oyster Bay shellfish. The FDA warns consumers against eating raw, or even partially cooked, oysters and clams bearing tags that list Oyster Bay Harbor, in Nassau County, New York as the harvest area.
Illnesses associated with this shellfish have been reported in a number of states and caused by the consumption of raw or partially cooked oysters or clams infected with the Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed Oyster Bay Harbor on July 13 to shellfish harvesting and all shellfish harvesters, shippers, re-shippers, processors, restaurants, and retail food establishments are advised to check the identity tags on all containers of shellfish in their inventories. If the tag indicates the harvest area as being Oyster Bay Harbor and bears a harvest date of on or after June 1, 2012, the product should be disposed of and not sold or served.
Consumers in possession of shellfish with tags listing Oyster Bay Harbor as the harvest area and a harvest date on or after June 1, 2012 should dispose of and not eat the shellfish. Consumers possessing shellfish for which the harvest area is not known should ask the retailer, restaurant, or other facility about the shellfish’s origin.
Records and information obtained by the New York state DEC indicate that the shellfish from this area of Oyster Bay Harbor in New York were distributed in several states, including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
In addition to prohibiting the harvesting of shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbor, the New York state DEC has issued media releases advising establishments not to use shellfish from this harvest area and advising consumers not to eat the shellfish. The DEC also notified states that received implicated shellfish and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, which has subsequently notified its membership.
The map at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7765.html indicates the area closed to shellfish harvesting. The closure will remain in effect until samples collected by the DEC indicate that shellfish from the affected area are no longer a threat to consumers. No other harvest areas have been implicated.
Last year, we wrote that the FDA issued a warning to consumers not to eat raw oysters harvested from Washington State’s Hood Canal Area 4 in an oyster recall that encompassed 23 states and four foreign countries, according to shipping and other records provided by Washington State. The illness involved in that oyster recall was also caused by the Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria. At the time of our writing, three confirmed and two potential illnesses were reported.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus illness is typically characterized by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms begin from a few hours to up to five days following consumption of tainted raw or undercooked seafood, particularly shellfish. People with weakened immune systems, including people affected by AIDS; chronic alcohol abuse; liver, stomach, or blood disorders; cancer; diabetes; or kidney disease can be more susceptible to vibrio illness and should always avoid eating raw oysters, regardless of from where they are harvested.
The FDA encourages consumers with questions about seafood safety to the agency, toll-free, at 1.888.SAFEFOOD, or email the FDA at firstname.lastname@example.org.