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FDA Accused of Caving to Industry in Oyster Row

By Katherine Glover | bnet,com

Under President Barack Obama, the Food and Drug Administration has showed some backbone for the first time in years. But now it’s backtracking on the issue of raw oysters from the Gulf Coast, thrilling industry but disappointing health advocates.

The FDA had announced new rules, effective 2011, banning raw oysters that have not been pasteurized, frozen or irradiated. When Gulf Coast oyster producers and politicians complained, however, the FDA decided it had been too hasty, and said it would put the rules on hold and study the matter further.

The problem with raw oysters is the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, which kills about fifteen people per year. The problem with the ban is, to quote an op-ed piece from the region, “the processing adds considerable expense to the processing of oysters while, at the same time, making the product less attractive to consumers by changing the sought-after salty taste and the texture oyster-lovers prize.”

Plus, consumers know raw oysters are risky, another op-ed points out: “People with weakened immune systems should know what foods they can and can’t consume and take appropriate precautions.”

On the other side, the Center for Science in the Public Interest called the decision “a health tragedy” and launched a campaign pressuring the FDA to return to its original position.

“This small portion of the shellfish industry should not have a free pass from FDA to sell adulterated and potentially deadly oysters to the public,” the group said.


Katherine Glover is a Minneapolis-based print, radio and online journalist. She's written for, Sierra Magazine and many others, and she does a weekly blog on immigration issues for MinnPost.


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