The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a nation-wide recall of oysters harvested from British Columbia’s waters and intended for raw consumption. The recall order is in effect for oysters harvested on or before August 18.
Abnormally high levels of naturally-occurring vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria in oysters have been linked to a spike in oyster-related illnesses, following the consumption of raw oysters. The bacteria flourishes in warm waters, which has been the case for B.C.’s coast this summer due to a record breaking El Nino.
“Consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments such as hotels and restaurants should not sell or use the recalled product,” reads the notice.
Consumers are asked to check whether they have the recalled product at home. These oysters should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.
The bacteria can cause severe gastrointestinal illness, with symptoms that include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and bloody stools. Those who are ill may feel symptoms for three days or as long as a week, and people with weakened immune systems such as young children, pregnant women and older adults are most vulnerable.
Any illness can be avoided if the oysters are fully cooked prior to consumption.
The CFIA is also conducting a food safety investigation that could lead to the recall of other products.
Today’s recall notice comes just a week after Vancouver Coastal Health required all restaurants and businesses in its jurisdiction to cook all B.C.-harvested oysters.