I guess this is a hot topic right now with shell-fishing around Cape Cod. Here is an article from a couple days ago with a little more information.
Bacteria can be present and still be safe, and the article doesn't imply that refrigerating eliminates the bacteria, it just curbs the spread, which means to me that it curbs the spread to unsafe levels that can cause illness.
As a lover of raw oysters, this issue/article is def of interest to me, so i appreciate your posting it.
I did have issue with the article's information, however, and sent this comment to the 'author'/Channel 7.
"Plse explain 'curb the bacteria's growth' in your final sentence. Correct wording is critical.
If the bacteria is curbed,but still present, then why would the oyster be safe? If the bacteria is ELIMINATED by the oyster being refrigerated within 5 hours of exposure-well, that's entirely different. Or maybe 'being safe' is a function of the critical mass/quantity of bacteria present? So which is being said by Federal officials? thank you, and plse remember- detailed articulate wording is essential when writing about food hazards."
Do any of you CHs know more about this bacteria issue? I think I'll send this article to Michael Serpa at Neptune Oyster; he is always a very knowledgeable person about all things seafood and food safety.
Bacterial contamination/safety is generally considered in terms of a concentration of bacteria. For example, the refrigerated, pasteurized milk you see on the shelves in the grocery store has been heated to affect a 99.999% (aka "log-5") reduction in the number of viable pathogens. On the flip side, the rules that govern holding food in the "danger zone" (40-140F) were established to limit the amount of time that pathogens have to multiply and increase their numbers.
It's all a probability game, and generally speaking, the probability is never exactly zero.