More oyster woes: Frozen raw oysters recalled due to norovirus

According to MauiNow, 11 cases of norovirus have been linked to raw oyster consumption in Maui since September. And now some frozen raw oysters from Korea are being recalled.

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health has issued a recall notice for frozen, raw oysters imported from Korea and sold in bulk to distributors and food establishments in Hawaiʻi.

The individually quick frozen raw oysters on the half shell are packaged under the Dai One Food Company label.

Health officials say the shellfish harvest dates are Feb. 10, 11, 12, and 13, 2015 and are listed on the required shellfish identification tags for all bulk shellfish cases.

The department has already conducted product trace-backs and embargoed all of the suspect product on Nov. 24 at various local shellfish distributors and restaurants,” said Peter Oshiro, “Although this product is not sold directly to the public, a recall has been issued as an additional safeguard to further notify anyone who may possess the product that it is unsafe and should be destroyed.”

Raw oyster-linked hep causes student to drop out of high school — 70 years ago

Like Almost Famous, it’s a coming of age story. One of challenges, persistence, legacy.

And hepatitis A.

According to HNGN, 89 year old Betty Reilly received a bachelor’s degree this week after having her academic career derailed by hepatitis A 70 years ago.

Reilly had to drop out of high school close to graduation when she became ill with Hepatitis A after eating raw oysters in Times Square as a teen. The year it took for her to recover from the debilitating illness squashed her dreams of not only getting that high school diploma, but also her college dreams.

So she went to work, met her husband and raised a family, like most people. It wasn’t until she applied for a job at a library in Sunrise, Fla. that this then 78-year-old self-processed bookworm realized her lack of degreed education can come back to hurt her. The librarian told Reilly at the time that she needed a high school diploma to work there.

So off went Betty Reilly to get an education, at the ripe old age of 78, according to the Jackson County Floridian.

College was not in her future, though, as Reilly had limited funds and no vehicle. However, she was advised to look into the Federal Pell Grant system, which took care of most of Reilly’s tuition, books and fees, and she took the public transportation’s hour-long bus to Broward Community College in Davie, Fla. to receive her Associate’s Degree.

According to a 1995 paper by Joseph Melnick in the Journal of Infectious Diseases goes through the history of hepatitis A virus; it wasn’t differentiated from other jaundice–causing illnesses until 1945, a little after when Reilly was in high school.

It’s vulnificus, dumbass: Florida reports most Vibrio cases in years

I did an almost one-hour radio interview this morning, and I messed up: I had a brain cramp and couldn’t remember the species of Vibrio that can cause problems, especially in raw oysters.

BC.oystersBut then I saw this story and was reminded that the number of Vibrio vulnificus cases reported in Florida in 2015 to date is the highest seen in the state in years, according to Florida Department of Health data. The 2015 tally, which has reached 42, is higher than any year from 2008 to 2014 (data available on DOH website).

Prior to this year, the high was reported in 2013 with 41 cases. Vulnificus cases have been reported in 25 counties with Hillsborough (5), Duval (4), Bay (3) and Polk (3) counties seeing the most.

In addition, the Vibrio death toll in Florida has reached 13, the most since 2011. Deaths have been reported from the following counties: Brevard (2), Duval (2), Escambia (1), Hillsborough (3), Lake (1), Marion (1), Pinellas (1), Polk (1) and Sarasota (1).

Vibrio vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to warm seawater containing the bacteria. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.

Healthy individuals typically develop a mild disease; however, Vibrio vulnificus infections can be a serious concern for people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease.

The quasi-daily probe E1: The okra of the sea

My friend Mike Batz of University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogen Institute and I were chatting a while back and thought it would be cool to connect for short podcasts when there was something fun going on. Here’s the first episode (and maybe the last) in it’s raw, unedited, short format.Daily-probe

Today we talked about oysters, raw and steamed, Vibrio, norovirus, burden and risk-based messaging.

The article that prompted the probe was from Lifezette where oysters are referred to as those scary shellfish.

Heads up, raw oyster lovers. New research from China shows the bivalves not only transmit human norovirus, they also serve as a reservoir for the harmful and highly contagious virus.

In an expansive study published recently in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, scientists discovered that more than 80 percent of the known noroviruses matched those found in oysters.

Even common recommendations for reducing the risks of illness, such as avoiding them from warm-water sources, aren’t a guarantee you won’t get sick, food safety expert Ben Chapman told LifeZette.

“Considering where they’re from, and not eating them at a certain time of year, may reduce the risk, though risk is always there,” said Chapman, a researcher at North Carolina State University. Chapman also notes that cooking oysters may lower risk, but that steaming — a popular way to prepare them — isn’t likely to get them above 140 degrees.

Listen to the episode here.

35 sick: raw is risky in rising temperatures in BC

A warning from the BC Centre for Disease Control about eating raw shellfish:

So far this summer, there have been an unprecedented number of shellfish-related illnesses thanks to the warm weather.

SUN0705N-Oyster7The majority of illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters sourced in BC and served in restaurants.

Spokesperson Marsha Taylor says 35 people have become ill from eating the uncooked shellfish…

“We’re putting this message out both to the public that will also hit the restaurants and we’re also doing follow up with every restaurant to make sure they are aware of the issue and we’re inspecting the premises.”

Some illnesses have also been linked with raw oysters purchased or self-harvested.

Taylor says if you happen to get sick…

“People who are experiencing symptoms of the Vibrio Parahaemolyticus most often experience typical food-borne illness like nausea and vomiting, headaches, and feel pretty badly for a couple of days…but most people will recover on their own.”

To reduce risk of illness consumers are being told to eat only cooked shellfish.

Proposal to close Washington oyster beds when temperatures rise

Vibrio is one of the nastier foodborne pathogens, one of the reasons why I don’t go near raw oysters (the other being that I just don’t like them). In 2014, Washington oyster producers dealt with the fallout from over 70 Vibrio cases linked to their products. The illnesses caused beds to be closed for two months and now, according to AP, the WA State Department of Health is proposing rules that would close the harvest areas proactively.

Local shellfish growers support the recommendations, saying the changes would better protect public health without creating hardships for the local industry.oyster-hi-res__72926.1405431595.1280.1280

“I think that’s a more reasonable way of approaching the problem,” Blau Oyster Co. owner Paul Blau said.

Following the seasonlong closure last year, Blau received a state exemption that allowed his company to sell shucked oysters with warning labels. It helped, but the small business still felt an impact.

“Not being able to sell live oysters in the shells . that’s kind of our high-priced product that we sell that time of year,” Blau said.

Under current regulation, inland areas like Samish Bay are subject to summerlong closures if four illnesses are traced back.

“That means a lot of closures are taking place in August and September, when we know most illness occurs in July and August,” state Office of Shellfish and Water Protection spokeswoman Laura Johnson said.

The revision would set water temperature thresholds that would result in shorter harvest times or full closures when exceeded.

“We’re excited about the change. It will be a positive one for public health . and we don’t think we’ll be closed any more than we have historically. We will just be closed proactively,” Taylor Shellfish Farms spokesman Bill Dewey said.

For inland areas, harvest closures would occur at 66 degrees and last until 24 hours after the temperature drops.

Oyster harvesters would also be required to cool shellfish to 50 degrees or less within five hours, as well as report harvest quantity and water temperature to the state agency.

“We know the growth of vibrio is so tied to temperature, it only makes sense that you’re going to be required to record temperatures when you harvest,” Dewey said.

To date, the Department of Health has tracked reports of vibrio-related illness, but not the quantity of oysters sold. The new data-filing requirement will enable the agency to look at the ratio of sickness to the number of oysters consumed.

“Everybody has been frustrated by our historic way of managing vibrio in the state . What we’ve done historically is monitor for illnesses, and then when we get those illnesses we shut it down,” Dewey said. “That’s a really bad way to manage public health, but we didn’t have another tool to do it. I think we’ve come up with a solution in this new rule.”



Polio virus released into Belgian waters; The Netherlands issue shellfish warning

The Dutch Food Safety and Health Authorities issued a warning (computer translated) against the consumption of raw, improperly cooked shellfish (mainly oysters) harvested by individuals in the eastern part of the Westerschelde river in response to the 45 litres of concentrated live polio virus solution accidentally released into Belgium water sources by Glaxo SmithKline earlier this month.

Raw oystersThe Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a release Monday (computer translated), The risk of infection with the poliovirus is very small. Since its release to the River Avenue, the concentration is diluted so much that the water itself is not a threat. However, shellfish filter water and the amount of virus can be higher than in the shell than in the water. Even then the chance to get infected even very small. But in the Netherlands, we are very cautious when it comes to polio. Along the Westerschelde are a number of municipalities with low vaccine coverage where many children are not protected against diseases like polio . When it comes poliovirus in such a community, there is great likelihood that many people get sick.

Belgium gave no such recommendations as the country’s polio vaccination rates are better than the Netherlands, according to the RIVM.

Martha’s Vineyard oysters could cause foodborne illness

Now that it’s September, it’s unofficially oyster season in New England. Having grown up amongst Greater Boston’s idyllic fishing communities, I’ve abided by the old adage only eat oysters during months that end in ‘ber.’ September is no exception; except for the fact that oyster beds off the coast of Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard have been closed.

Coos Bay Oyster Co.On Wednesday afternoon, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries announced the precautionary closure of the oyster beds in Katama Bay. The two departments determined that a certain environmental condition has become present which can often lead to an infestation of Vibrio parahaemolyticus – a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness when ingested.

Vibrio outbreak prompts changes in oyster handling

I’ve only once had raw oysters, on a trip to New Zealand while in graduate school where some Kiwi food safety folks urged me to try the delicacy.

They were slimy.

I determined that the taste benefit wasn’t worth the risks for me.

According to the Vineland Gazette, a 2013 outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, linked to Katama Bay (MA) oysters prompted the Massachusetts Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health, Food Protection Program to develop a plan to limit Vibrio risks.SUN0705N-Oyster7

A Vp control plan takes effect next month that will require faster cooling and delivery of oysters, changes in handling methods for harvesters, specific requirements for icing and new rules for record keeping among commercial oyster growers.

Backed by the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the rules will be in effect from May 19 through Oct. 19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended last year that Massachusetts develop a plan to control Vp during the warm weather months to prevent illness. 

FSA seeking for research on norovirus removal from oysters

Norovirus in oysters is a global issue and the UK Food Standards Agency, home of piping hot, is looking for some research help. As the virus bioaccumulates and is tough to cook out of shellfish, lots of folks are looking for virus removal strategies.Beautiful-Opened-Oyster

According to Fish Farmer, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is inviting tenders to design and execute a research study to identify and evaluate possible enhancements to improve norovirus removal from live oysters during shellfish depuration processes.

The FSA wants to commission work to quantify and optimise the effectiveness of standard UK depuration practices in reducing norovirus in oysters and to explore the potential for novel approaches to significantly improve the effectiveness of this process.

The study should include reviews of relevant available evidence (published and unpublished) as the starting point for a fully justified laboratory-based project which will improve the controls that can be applied to current UK depuration practices, to reduce the levels of norovirus in oysters sold for public consumption.

Maybe Heston Blumenthal is on the review panel.  If so, research into food handlers working while ill might predictably be next on the docket.