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Aug 1, 2006 04:07 AM

Washington Oysters - apparently not a great time to eat them raw

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  1. Just a note. The problem seems to be limited to Hood Canal and Puget Sound oysters. Wilapa Bay - just off the Pacific - has cooler waters and presumably safe oysters. Not that I plan to rush out and eat a dozen.


    1. Just to add to my point, last night I was at my favorite restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula, Passionfish, and they were featuring two different raw oyster appetizers from Washington. Both were specified as Oysterville Oysters. Oysterville - along with Grays Harbor - is a major oyster center on Wilapa Bay.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Phoo D

        They were on the menu when I was at Passionfish Friday night as well...the server, when asked, wasn't aware of the issue with Washington State oysters, and not having seen this post I wasn't aware of the regional distinctions between the Wilapa Bay and others (though it makes sense given the geography and currents involved). Nonetheless, my friend had them (he figured if there were a problem that the owners of PF would be on top of it given their general awareness on such issues), and enjoyed them very much, with no ill effects.

        There has been mention on the SF Board that while it may be safe in regions with cool waters to eat them in months without R, the taste may be effected. And of course, in Northern California, even September and October can have warmer currents...

      2. Although I live on the other coast, we have always been taught to eat oysters only in the months that have an R in them.

        3 Replies
        1. re: grapevine

          I learned the same thing as a child. But it really applies only to Gulf Coast/East Coast oysters. The Japanese current off of the West Coast is much colder than the Gulf Stream - one of the factors that makes the weather so much different on each coast.
          Thus, Pacific Northwest oysters are usually edible year around. This year's unusually hot summer has raised the water temps particularly in inland locations like Hood Canal and South Puget Sound. So oysters that are normally edible are making people sick this year.


          1. re: Phoo D

            In Texas, we get Gulf Coast Louisiana oysters throughout the whole summer that are perfectly fine to eat.

          2. re: grapevine

            The issue with "months with an R" is not safety, but rather that East Coast oysters tend to spawn in the summer months. When oysters are spawning they "spend" much of their energy and physical mass.

            Thus summer, east coast oysters tend to be much less substantial and can even be kind of flabby. Still edible, but flabby. If you get one in August that spawned in June it is excellent and meaty regardless.

          3. I'll say. My brother in law in Portland ate some of these oysters at a very fine dining restaurant a few weeks ago and was incredibly, incredibly ill. The worst case of food poisoning I have ever seen. Luckily, he is all right now but if he had a weak liver or immune system I shudder to think.

            1. There are two different things we're really talking about here: oysters spawning, and oysters taking in toxins from algae. Oysters get into a spawning mood when the water warms up, and when they do that they get flabby and insipid, not at all pleasant to eat, but not really harmful. Algae blooms OTOH also tend to happen in warm-water conditions, though toxic algae can show up whenever the conditions are right, R month or no R month. That's what'll make you sick.