Washington, DC – The Food and Drug Administration and CDC have reported certain risk factors associated with eating raw shellfish.
Food safety is a concern during the summer season, and it is important to remember that food-borne illnesses or food poisoning can occur by eating food that has not been well cleaned, cooked, or stored at appropriate temperatures.
Those with weakened immune systems, including people affected by HIV/AIDS, chronic alcohol abuse, liver, stomach, or blood disorders, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease, should avoid eating raw oysters, regardless of where they are harvested.
Food poisoning is usually caused by salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus and can be passed by someone who did not properly wash his or her hands. Consuming raw shellfish can sometimes lead to vibriosis, gastroenteritis and other viruses that induce nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
The FDA states, “unlike crustacean shellfish like crabs, shrimp, and lobster, molluscan shellfish obtain nutrients by pumping seawater through their gills and filtering out tiny organisms, which are then ingested. While pumping water, they can take in bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, concentrating them in their bodies at much higher levels than found in the surrounding waters. These contaminants can make people sick when they eat the shellfish.”
“Molluscan shellfish carry an inherent risk because they are often consumed raw,” says Larry Stringer, director of state programs in FDA’s Central Region. “Problems that occur in shellfish growing waters from chemicals like pesticides or from disease-causing microorganisms cannot be fixed later before the shellfish reach the consumer, so these products are controlled early on.”
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of a food-borne illness, contact a health care provider and call the DOH Food-borne Illness Coordinator at 311.