FDA to Ban Sale of Raw Gulf Oysters to Reduce Cases of Deadly Bacterial Disease

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) — Oysters harvested from April to October in the Gulf of Mexico should be sterilized before they are sold, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The FDA plans to effectively ban the sale of raw oysters during the summer months, starting in 2011, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Wednesday. The proposed regulation is aimed at vibrio vulnificus disease, a deadly bacterial disease. About 30 cases a year are reported in the United States, with half the victims dying.

The FDA rule change, announced this month, has provoked howls of protest from New Orleans restaurant owners, fishing industry representatives and Louisiana state officials.

“It’s not only going to include raw oysters. You can’t fry oysters for a po-boy, you can’t put oysters in a gumbo and you can’t charbroil oysters unless they’re post-harvest processed,” said Tommy Cvitanovich, owner of Drago’s restaurant. “That’s ludicrous.”

Louisiana produces about one-third of the nation’s oysters, most of them shipped to other states. Mike Voisin, an oyster processor, called the FDA rules a “nuclear bomb” for the industry.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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