On 31 July 2006, the FDA advised consumers to avoid eating raw oysters harvested in the Pacific Northwest in response to reports that some of the oysters recently harvested from the region were contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus. On 11 August 2006, the FDA extended the scope of advisory to advise consumers not to eat raw clams harvested in the same area. They recommended consumers to thoroughly cook oysters and clams harvested from that area before eating. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has promptly contacted the U.S. Consulate General and requested local importers to stop importing raw clams and ready-to-eat (RTE) raw oysters from the affected areas for the time being.
What is Vibrio parahaemolyticus?
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium naturally found in the marine environment and seafood. It is one of the most frequently isolated food poisoning organisms. The symptoms of gastroenteritis caused by Vibro parahaemolyticus include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and occasionally mild fever. The incubation period is usually about 12 to 24 hours, but can range from 4 to 30 hours. The bacterium can be killed by normal cooking.
Oyster and other bivalve shellfish as high risk food
As oyster and other bivalve shellfish are filter-feeders and marine-dwellers, they are easily contaminated by a number of pathogens (e.g. Vibrio parahaemolyticus, hepatitis A virus and norovirus). Consumption of raw or undercooked seafood contaminated with pathogens may pose a high risk of foodborne illness.
Advice to local Importers
- The CFS has brought this issue to the attention of local importers.
- Local importers are advised to monitor the latest situation of the incident and not to import raw clams and ready-to-eat raw oysters from the affected areas.
Advice to trade and consumers
- Purchase seafood from reliable and reputable suppliers.
- Cook seafood thoroughly before consumption.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially for people in high risk categories (i.e. young children, elderly people, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems).
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