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Could Your Raw Oysters Give You The Infamous Winter Stomach Flu?

Should We Be Concerned About Eating Oysters?

Do You Adore Your Raw Oysters?

Eating raw oysters can be a passion and delicacy.  If you have never tried them, be brave and take the plunge! Maybe you will find your pearl. Oysters, raw and fresh can be a great source of minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, selenium and vitamins A and B12.  Served open with their sea juices and a glass of champagne and you feel transformed to a oceanside seat.  Do you adore your oysters?  Could you imagine having to give them up?

Can you trust the oyster and scallop producers?

In the European Union, periodic inspections are done on mollusks to be sure they are safe for human consumption.  However, after an investigation by the European Food Safety Authority it seems that many oysters in Europe, even those labeled as coming from clean waters, still contain amounts of a virus called norovirus. Norovirus is a highly infectious virus that is passed either from person to person contact or from eating foods or drinking water that contain fecal matter. Norovirus is a major culprit of the winter stomach flu causing vomiting and diarrhea.  The oyster, scallop and other mollusk producers follow strict guidelines to have the right to offer their products on the seafood market. But apparently this isn’t enough to prevent many cases of gastroenteritis caused by norovirus.

Should we stop eating oysters and other raw mollusks?

The European Food Safety Authority recommends more measures to have less contamination in the mollusks, to have cleaner water in the mollusk “beds” rather than trying to rid the seafood of norovirus after it has already been contaminated. Personally I have eaten raw oysters a couple of times a year and have never had any severe stomach issues. It is quite a dommage (shame) to give up this wonderful eating experience.  If you love raw oysters you can relate to this. Eating these mollusks is a whole theatrical experience. The next day, as long as the stomach holds well, you really feel great.

My recommendations on eating your oysters and finding your pearl

  • Know what waters your oysters are coming from. Be informed that these are clean waters. Enjoy oysters that come from the cleanest waters.
  • Eat your oysters and seafood within the dates they are still fresh. Don’t take a risk and eat them past the date of expiration.
  • Use the lemon trick.  Open your oysters and squirt a small amount of lemon on the side of the meat. If they are alive, they will move. Okay to eat.
  • Do not eat raw oysters or seafood if you have any medical reasons for avoiding food borne illness (AIDS, cancer, diabetes or an especially weak immune system).
  • Do not eat raw oysters or seafood if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, elderly.
  • Avoidance for young children (although most young kids do not like raw oysters and seafood).
  • Wash your hands after eating oysters and other raw seafood.
  • Viruses are spread from person to person. If you are sick practice good hygiene such as frequent hand washing with soap. Good hygiene both for you and those close to you.

Enjoy your food, but as always be an informed consumer.  Let me know if you adore your oysters and whether the EFSA’s findings will affect your consumption of these wonderful mollusks. As always, Bon Appetit!

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  1. Suzanne Saxe-R, Ed.D - January 30, 2012

    RT @mbrighton66 Could Your Raw Oysters Give You The Infamous Winter Stomach Flu?: Norovirus is a major culprit o…

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