FDA advises Massachusetts restaurants and retailers about contaminated oysters

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“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and state and local partners, are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Norovirus illnesses linked to raw oysters.

What is the Problem and What is being Done About It?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with federal, state, and local officials, and with Canadian public health authorities regarding a norovirus outbreak linked to raw oysters from British Columbia, CanadaExternal Link Disclaimer. The FDA has confirmed that potentially contaminated raw oysters harvested in the south and central parts of Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada, were distributed to restaurants and retailers in CA, CO, FL, HI, IL, MA, MN, NJ, NV, NY, OR, TX, and WA. It is possible that additional states received these oysters through further distribution within the U.S.

The FDA and the states conducted a trace forward investigation to determine where the raw oysters were distributed and to ensure they’re removed from the food supply. Retailers should not serve raw oysters harvested from the following harvest locations within British Columbia, BC 14-8 and BC 14-15, with harvest starting as early as January 31, 2022, which will be printed on product tags.

Oysters can cause illness if eaten raw, particularly in people with compromised immune systems. Food contaminated with norovirus may look, smell, and taste normal.

What are the Symptoms of Norovirus Infection?
People of all ages can get infected and sick with norovirus. The most common symptoms of norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other symptoms include fever, headache, and body ache.

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.

If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill, and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.

Symptoms of dehydration include decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.

Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call your healthcare provider.

Who is at Risk?
Anyone who consumes raw shellfish is at risk of contracting norovirus. Children younger than five, the elderly, and those people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections.

What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need to Do?
Restaurants and retailers should not sell the potentially affected raw oysters. Restaurants and retailers should dispose of any products by throwing them in the garbage or returning to their distributor for destruction.

Restaurants and retailers should also be aware that the oysters may be a source of pathogens and should control the potential for cross–contamination of food processing equipment and the food processing environment.

They should follow the steps below:

• Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
• Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.
• Retailers that have sold bulk product should clean and sanitize the containers used to hold the product.
• Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces and utensils used in food preparation may help to minimize the likelihood of cross–contamination.

What Do Consumers Need to Do?
People should not eat any raw oysters from the locations listed above. If they have any of the listed products, they should throw them in the garbage.

People who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated raw oysters should talk to their health care providers.

Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.

For food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with the potentially contaminated oysters, it is very important that the consumers thoroughly clean these areas and items.

It is also important to be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant to heat. They can survive temperatures as high as 145°F. Quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish may not heat foods enough to kill noroviruses.

To protect yourself and others from norovirus:

• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often.
• Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.
• Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
• Do not prepare food or care for others when you are sick, and for at least two days after symptoms stop.
• Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
• Wash contaminated laundry thoroughly.” -FDA.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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