Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a warning to restaurants that all oysters harvested in British Columbia’s waters must be cooked due to the prevalence of illness-causing bacteria. Raw oysters should only be consumed if they are harvested outside B.C. waters.
According to the notice, the policy comes after a sharp rise in oyster-related illnesses following the consumption of raw oysters. B.C.’s abnormally warm temperatures this summer have contributed to the rise in vibrio parahaemolyticus infections, with the majority of incidents occurring at restaurants.
“Restaurants in Vancouver Coastal Health are required to cook oysters harvested in British Columbia before serving, and only oysters harvested outside of the province may be served raw at this time,” reads a statement by the regional health authority.
“Public health ordered this step in response to an ongoing outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection related to consumption of raw oysters harvested in BC.”
Those who purchase, prepare and consume B.C.-harvested oysters at home are also advised to cook the oysters prior to serving.
Incidents of gastrointestinal illness caused by the bacteria usually rise each summer, but this summer’s high temperatures are causing unprecedented numbers to fall ill. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and bloody stools. Those ill may feel symptoms for three days or as long as a week.
At this time, there have already been 31 cases reported this summer after the consumption of raw oysters. In contrast, there were just 16 cases reported by the end of August.
Today’s warning adds to a warning issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on July 31. “People should always be aware of the health risks associated with eating raw or undercooked oysters,” said Marsha Taylor, Epidemiologist with the BCCDC. “The risk is especially high this summer, as we can see from the number of Vibrio infections reported during the last two months.”