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FDA wants to nuke raw oysters!!

"The Food and Drug Administration stunned the oyster industry last month when it announced plans to require that oysters harvested from the Gulf [of Mexico] between April and October undergo one of several types of processes to kill bacteria before the shellfish can be served raw....The oyster industry says that antibacterial processing, which is similar to pasteurization, will ruin the taste of raw oysters, triple their cost and place undue burdens on a business that has deep cultural and culinary roots. "
"About 30 cases of the infection are traced to Gulf Coast oysters annually, and half of those cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "


I usually don't eat raw oysters between April and October, but is this overkill?

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  1. I read about this in the Times-Picayune --- These people need to find something to do...They have way to much time on their hands --- It's totally Ridiculous.

    1. wow, this is pretty ridiculous, i agree. They are getting heavy-handed in their overagressive approach to food "safety". Like people haven't been eating raw oysters for years??

      1. We have similar idiocy here in Ontario. First they banned the sale of raw milk and raw milk cheeses, which are perfectly legal in neighbouring Quebec. I don't recall reading about Quebeckers who use these products dropping dead. But the same pretext of bacteria was used.

        Then, they insisted that all sushi fish be frozen. Toronto has never been the best city for seafood, but this practice really hurt. Everything tastes a little mushy, and a lot of the flavour is lost because it is so cold when served.

        12 Replies
        1. re: FrankD

          Quebec ain't that liberal: a few years back, the city inspectors in all their wisdom (same alma mater as those fine FDA folk down at the gulf, I assume) decided that chacuteries must put their wares into plexiglass and or refrigerated casements...
          really not the same...

          1. re: porker

            That would be the Montreal city inspectors, right? Our cottage is in the Eastern Townships, and I always see big sausages hanging from the ceiling.

            Geez, and what did that do for the display at Dunn's?

            1. re: FrankD

              Yeah, city inspectors.
              All "displays" are now in plexiglass or refrigerated casements...

          2. re: FrankD

            all sashimi in the US is supposed to be frozen as well, nation wide. Fact of the matter is that almost all commerical fish is frozen anyhow. Those fishing boats stay out for weeks. Properly frozen fish is almost identical to fresh. If it is mushy there is a good chance it has been allowed to thaw out and then refrozen.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              No frozen fish will have texture "almost identical" to fresh fish (not even close)...no matter how carefuly it was frozen and defrosted.

              1. re: Pollo

                i've had grouper fresh from my nephew's catch, and i've had grouper from that same catch that he froze in a block of ice. when i cooked it some month later, the frozen grouper had a texture and flavor very close to that eaten the "day of" the catch. i wish i had the recipe that i used, too; it was a caribbean style, done in a saute pan. very nice and flaky.

                1. re: Pollo

                  Sorry...I should have specified that I was talking about sashimi.

                  1. re: Pollo

                    ah, well, you have me there. ;-)).

                    1. re: Pollo

                      none-the-less all fish used for sashimi (or sushi) in the us is by law supposed to be frozen

                        1. re: Pollo

                          been trying to find the old thread that discussed this in some depth, but have not been able to. when i get a chance to do a more thorough web search i'll try to get back on this.

              2. Fifteen deaths annually... a statistical national tragedy, worthy of intervention by all agencies, including the CDC, but oops they are busy in their efficient administration of distribution of H1N1 vaccine.

                This is FDA, and perhaps far greater than15 lives annually could be saved if we cut a swath through a few of their managerial levels, and shifted those riffed federal employees to classrooms across the country solely to teach kids to read the labels on hydrogenated fats. The kids could teach the parents. Said FDA's would also be required to forsake previous salaries and dress for the classroom in $10 polyester shirts and $5 ties, as are the regular salaried teachers because of their low incomes. But then, the FDA lost their credibility as keepers of the public faith when they capitulated to the food industry and let "0.5 grams" of hydrogenated fat" read as Zero grams on all labels.

                And shift the FDA focus to save some lives in allowing people to shift from deadly alcohol (drug) to marijuana without criminal penalty. Tens of thousands of traffic murders averted, untold tens of thousands of domestic violence averted, medical costs to society averted.

                But danger: if people were smoking, and getting the munchies for those un-nuked oysters, consumption would increase, raising the death rate by perhaps another dozen.

                Twenty seven deaths amongst us Ar'ster eaters seems a sane compromise.

                When I was in grad school, I picked up 25 bucks a pop for showing up at the monthly study conducted by state fisheries commission studying toxins in raw oysters. There, among hundreds of compadres cramming the cafeteria, many with the Ar'ster munchies, I signed a waiver acknowledging my roughly 15% chance of of contracting gastro illness. That's like Russian roulette. But they fed me a dozen oysters, and even provided chili sauce and saltines.

                I agreed with the study, and survived in hale health, because it was directed at the culture harvesting and management of a food crop. There will ALWAYS be times when a little trichinosis gets into the pork supply, or bacteria into the shellfish, or e. coli onto the melon skins. But. please do not mandate nuking of the food post production as a catch-all cure; focus on the proper culture and harvest.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    Love that response!
                    Reminescent of Good Will Hunting not taking the NSA job;

                    1. re: FoodFuser

                      Although you forgot to mention that our supersized portions in the United States means that millions people who think, courtesy of the FDA, that they're getting 0 grams of hydrogenated fat per serving are really getting 35 grams with each meal, and thousands others are dying annually because they or other citizens use their cell phones while driving to order the hydrogenated fat to take home to dinner, I thought all in all your analysis was spot on.

                      1. re: FoodFuser

                        Three cheers for FoodFuser's rational take on the situation. But then, "rational" never seems to apply to federal agencies responding to a "crisis" -- overreaction to small crises and unpreparedness for major ones. Then again, when an agency is "just right," it doesn't make news.

                      2. When that came out, coast fisherman and tongers were outraged, the business is hard enough without that kind of aggravation. Anyway, our local station did a story on it and reported that only three (3) persons on the coast had died b/c of eating raw oysters in the last 20 years or so. The victims in the reported cases had existing health problems that should have prevented them from eating raw oysters. I, and my family and friends, have been eating them forEVER and not one of us has ever had a moment's illness. The FDA needs to tend to more urgent issues IMHO.

                        1. huh? y'all don't like the nanny state?

                          1. I'm not familiar with American food safety procedures/concerns and the link doesnt make clear what process is being suggested but certainly here in the UK it has long been a statutory requirement that shellfish, such as oysters and mussels, are subjected to an ultraviolet treatment for 48 hours to kill off bacteria, before they can be sold.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Harters

                              It's not the oysters or muscles that are subjected to UV but the water recirculated in the holding tanks....

                              1. re: Pollo

                                Correct - but the shellfish are then subjected to UV'd water. Isnt that pretty much the same - in that bacteria in the shellfish are zapped?

                                1. re: Harters

                                  UV does not disolve in water so bacteria in the shelfiss are not killed. What UV does is kills bacteria that are washed out of the gut of the bi-valves and over time (48-72 hrs.) it is assumed that most (if not) all contents of the gut will be discharged into the water (and then killed by UV light).

                                    1. re: Pollo

                                      Thanks for the explanation. If I've read you right what you're saying is that the process in the UK doesnt kill the bacteria whilst its in the shellfish but once it's left the shellfish. If that's so, then it seems a pointless exercise and I can't fathom why it would be a legal requirement but, hey, I often can't fathom legal requirements.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        It's not pointless...not every shelfish carries pathogenic bacteria but if they are in a confined space of a holding tank (as oposed to open sea) they will spread the "bugs" to each other. Also, keeping them for a few days tends to get rid off all the sand and food so they taste better...

                                        1. re: Pollo

                                          I think I understand now, Pollo. If they're going to keep them in tank for a while so they purge sand and so on, then you might as well kill off the bugs in the water, so they don't re-ingest. Makes sense.

                              2. <FDA wants to nuke raw oysters!! >

                                It's the FDA that needs to be nuked. (Oooooops, did I say that? ;>O)

                                sounds kinda silly. No one MAKES anyone eat a raw oyster at any time. If I choose to do that, okay, warn me of the risk, but it should stop there.

                                1. Um, wow, that's so ridiculous it's rendered me speechless. Pasteurization I thought entailed heating something to a temperature that kills the bacteria. Forgive me, but if I wanted a cooked oyster, I'd order a cooked oyster.
                                  And 30 cases in a year, how many people die in one year? Why don't they focus on something that is more widespread instead of nit picking. Oh wait, how else do they justify their massive lumbering bureaucratic existence.
                                  Whew...got that off the chest.

                                  1. Due to mass pressure from both sides of the aisle, the FDA has backed off on the plan pending further research.


                                    1. What is funny is that those of us from the South know to generally avoid raw seafood in the summer (the whole "months without an 'R' thing).

                                      Nice of the FDA to be so concerned about tourists though...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bryan Gros

                                        AVoiding oysters in all but the R months might make sense in the Gulf region -- less so in Alaska, Washington State, British Columbia.

                                      2. MakingSense (OP): " I usually don't eat raw oysters between April and October, but is this overkill?" "overkill" !?!? Most ironic use of a word EVER!

                                        1. FoodFuser: "Twenty seven deaths amongst us Ar'ster eaters seems a sane compromise."

                                          I really doubt that if a loved one of FoodFuser died from eating oysters tainted by Vibrio vulnificus that FoodFuser would dismiss the death so easily as a "sane compromise".
                                          It's a safe bet that everyone opposed to treating or banning summer month oysters is operating on the belief that neither they nor anyone close to them is going to die or get sick from eating oysters. Because to believe that it's better to have a loved one (or oneself) die, and die a horrible death at that, rather than treat oysters or ban their sale during summer months is insane.

                                          For me the solution is easy- I don't eat oysters. I would advocate education and warnings wherever raw oysters are served before implementation of the proposed treatment or banning plans. The problem I have is the insensitive and hypocritical attitude to the fact that people do die/ get very sick from eating raw oysters. Relatively speaking 15 people dying each yr. from eating oysters is not as significant as deaths from many other causes but when 1 of those is you or a loved one it becomes the utmost of significance.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ilikefood

                                            What you say is true, ilikefood, tragedy becomes incredibly significant when it affects us personally. If this subject hit close to my home, I'd be asking why the powers-that-be did not protect us properly.
                                            But in cases like this, to me, it seems the FDA is heavy handed. Kinda like banning air travel due to the likelihood of a crash.

                                            1. re: ilikefood

                                              The cost to taxpayers of an FDA-generated education and warning program for every small potential possible harm from consuming something or other, costs tens of millions as it works its way from the federal regulatory level down through state, county, local, wholesale, retail, and consumer levels.
                                              At some point, we have to depend on consumer common sense. Those who have underlying health problems should think twice about consuming raw oysters, or other things for that matter.

                                              We already have a $1.78 trillion federal deficit this year alone, and that doesn't include state, county, and local governments on the brink, and small businesses going under right and left creating growing unemployment, and decreasing revenue to government from the taxes that they and their employees would have paid.
                                              These increasing mandates are killing us economically.

                                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                Also discussed pro and con on NPR's Morning Edition this morning. I'm of course con.

                                              2. though i am against the FDA regulation, one should know how excruciating the slow death is. read this brilliant article by Nancy Nichols, food editor of D Magazine (a dallas based society/lifestyle publication). She details a death by oysters harvested from the gulf.

                                                (what's up kaimukiman? still dreaming about the combo plate at rainbow drive in and leonard's malasada's)


                                                as a sidenote, i don't eat raw oyster from the gulf regardless of season. only fried ones. i opt to pay a bit more for the ones from the east and west coasts.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: adkim

                                                  interesting article, makes me glad that oysters are not high on my list of favortie foods. lol
                                                  i dont see the problem with the uv treated water, the oysters don't even have to be directly exposed, just filter the water.

                                                  i thought the comment in the article about oysters being the only raw animal protein consumed was pretty lame. He's never had sashimi/sushi, or steak tartar? and mayo is still made with raw egg in home recipies.

                                                  (rainbow's hasn't changed. i think ive only been back twice since you were here. i need to fit into at least some of my clothes. think "next time" gonna take you to grace's, or tsukenjo's. take care adkim.)

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    "i thought the comment in the article about oysters being the only raw animal protein consumed was pretty lame. He's never had sashimi/sushi, or steak tartar? and mayo is still made with raw egg in home recipies."

                                                    I think he meant the only raw animal protein that is still alive...

                                                    "An oyster is the only animal protein that we consume live," explains Dave Blevins, the Food and Drug Administration’s regional shellfish specialist.

                                                    (I know what you mean... if i had RDI here, i would live a masochist life...taking solace in my comfort food. ouch, got a paper cut---heading to rainbow drive in. )

                                                    1. re: adkim

                                                      ok ok, i wont mention swallowing goldfish, or the odd custom of some to eat live baby octopus. and its not like the hawaii custom of eating live sea urchin is common enough for him to know about.

                                                      waddaya mean i hate being wrong????

                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        i concede. but we won't go into eating sashimi while the fish, octopus, squid, etc is still alive. i once saw this show where this chef was serving a live lobster sashimi...the diners were oooooing and ahhhhing as the lobster's tentacles and limbs were still moving as they picked at it's tail. when the lobster quit moving, the owner of the rest. started to gouge the lobster's eyes so it would move more for the camera. i almost bought a ticket to chicago to hunt that dude down so i could gouge one of his eyes out.

                                                2. Call off the dogs! At least for now. The FDA has backed down after an outcry from oyster lovers and threats from Louisiana and Florida Senators to cut off their funding over such foolishness.

                                                  Now they're on to really, really important stuff - like a new effort to ban the sale of pre-mixed rum and Coke. The nannies have decided that the combo of alcohol and caffeine is bad for you. Who knew?
                                                  You can still mix your own Bacardi and Coke, just not buy those convenient (if nasty) little cans.
                                                  Cuba Libres have been around since the Spanish American War, but now the FDA has decided that they have to protect us from ourselves.
                                                  Maybe we'll have to start calling them America Libres. Sheesh!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    Is this what you're referring to?


                                                    Pre-mixed rum & coke is not the target, although it will probably get caught in the crossfire, and really, who cares. Rather, the ban is aimed at beverages made from caffeinated malt liquor & fruit juice (because kids love 'em). It's akin to restricting the sale of flavored cigarettes (because kids love 'em). You can blame the FDA, but on this, they seem to be getting their marching orders from shrieky helicopter parents. Think of the children!

                                                    1. re: small h

                                                      "Kids"--you made me wonder what kind of parents let their "kids" drink them but they're targeting college students, not children. I thought parents were packing them in childrens' lunchboxes or something. Really, legislators have been there, they know what college is like and they should know that eliminating this product isn't going to stop or even reduce college drinking (which for most of the students is illegal anyway). We need to get stop wasting time on "feel good" legislation that accomplishes nothing.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        <they're targeting college students, not children>

                                                        True. But high school students would be attracted to the drinks as well. I know I didn't wait 'til after graduation to have my first Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler.

                                                        I agree wholeheartedly about the dopey over-legislating. As a horribly misguided youth, I was fully capable of combining iced tea with grain alcohol and didn't need the convenience of a pre-mixed bottle. Maybe the FDA is hoping people are just too lazy to make their own?