Oysters and other seafood have the potential to become contaminated with Vibrio Parahaemolticus, a dangerous bacterium that can cause severe illness in the victims. This is especially true of oysters, because they are very commonly eaten raw, but also true in the case of other seafood that is not cooked to a proper temperature, such as scallops. Vibrio causes Vibriosis, a gastrointestinal illness much like other food borne pathogens that is not easily identifiable because testing is not routinely performed to screen for Vibrio.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 4,500 cases of Vibrio each year, though only a fraction of these are confirmed cases due to the fact that diagnosing the illnesses correctly is relatively rare. In Washington State, for example, there were 76 reported cases of Vibrio Parahaemolticus-related illnesses last year. Washington State is famous for seafood and the home of a vibrant oyster harvest each year.

Traditionally, in Washington State, the harvest of oysters has been halted at specific locations after a confirmed case of Vibriosis is linked to the oysters harvested at that location. Such shut-downs are not only costly, but often follow the illnesses by many weeks – according to Laura Johnson of the Washington State Office of Shellfish and Water Protection, most illnesses are in July and August, but closures are most often in August and September.

That is why, in Washington State, a new plan is being proposed. Research shows that Vibrio is linked to the harvesting of oysters in warmer waters, a common summer-time condition in inland waters and harbors of Washington State, such as Samish Bay, Hood Canal, and the Puget Sound. As such, the new rules would force closures of harvesting in these areas when the waters creep above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. At 66 degrees, the area would be closed and remain closed until 24 hours after the temperatures fell to 65 or below, and harvesters would need to store the oysters at 50 degrees or below within five hours of harvesting the oysters.

These new rules are aimed at shelled oysters which are often consumed raw. Shucked oysters are usually cooked and hence would not be subject to these new rules.

Vibrio lawyer Ron Simon has experience representing Vibrio victims, and is currently representing victims of a Vibrio outbreak linked to Redd’s Restaurant in California. In that case, the Restaurant served undercooked scallops that led to serious injury for a number of guests represented by the Food Safety Firm of Ron Simon & Associates. For more information about Vibrio, a Vibrio lawsuit, or any other food borne illness, call the food poisoning lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates at 1-888-335-4901.