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Food Safety Focus (1st Issue, August 2006) – Food Incident Highlight

New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) Advised the Public not to Consume Uncooked Oysters Imported from Korea

The NZFSA issued a reminder to the public on 6 July 2006 of not to consume uncooked oysters imported from Korea. The statement was made in response to several reported outbreaks in New Zealand that had been linked to the consumption of uncooked Korean oysters. Although all bags of frozen Korean oysters were clearly labelled as requiring cooking before consumption, this practice has not been consistently observed by the catering industry in New Zealand. Raw oysters are known to sometimes carry norovirus, which can cause gastrointestinal illness.

Norovirus is commonly found in sewage-contaminated water. Ingestion of raw or inadequately cooked foods, including shellfish, salad and raw vegetables can pose a high risk of norovirus infection. Symptoms caused by norovirus may include nausea, vomiting, non-bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

The key to the prevention of norovirus infection is strict observance of food, personal and environmental hygiene. Vulnerable population, which include the elderly, children, pregnant women and persons with lower immunity, should be careful when choosing foods especially high risk food. Products that pose a high risk of being contaminated with norovirus, such as shellfish, should also be cooked thoroughly before consumption. Please visit the CFS website for further educational materials on norovirus and safe consumption of shellfish.