Monday, May 14, 2012

Keep Those Oysters Cool

New Cooling Regulations Placed on Massachusetts Oyster Industry

In response to 5 cases of oyster related illness on the Cape last year, the state has begun placing regulations for growers to get oysters in a cold environment sooner in response to FDA regulations. 

Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria occur naturally in seawater. Vibrio like sticking to objects in the water such as silt, sediment, rotting shells, or the gill membranes of oysters. When oysters are in the water, in cool New England, temperatures are generally too cold for the bacteria to multiply quickly. The oysters metabolize and purge them out of their systems over time. But when water temperatures rise above 80 degrees or oysters bake in the sun on tidal flats or in the back of a truck, the bacteria can double by the hour. If the levels get high enough, vibrio can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and chills, sometimes requiring hospitalization. People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

While these regulations apply to growers and distributors, they also should be kept in mind by those who buy oysters to take home and consume at home. Like other foods such as meat and chicken, proper storage and handling is essential.

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