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Study suggests alternative treatment for bacteria in oysters
Date:3/21/2011

A joint study by local oyster growers and researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows that moving farmed oysters into saltier waters just prior to harvest nearly eliminates the presence of a bacterium that can sicken humans.

The findingsreported by VIMS professors Kim Reece and Howard Kator, and local oyster growers Thomas Gallivan, A.J. Erskine, and Tommy Leggettmay offer a relatively low-cost solution to a controversial change in FDA regulations that many growers believe will eventually affect the oyster industry in Chesapeake Bay.

The Food and Drug Administration's regulatory change, set to take affect during this year's harvest season in the Gulf of Mexico, requires Gulf shellfish growers to eliminate the bacterium Vibrio vulnificus from shellfish through the use "post-harvest processing" or "PHP." PHP methods include low-temperature pasteurization, flash freezing, high pressure, and low-dose irradiation.

The FDA rule does not currently pertain to oyster growers in Chesapeake Bay, but local growers and scientists believe it will eventually apply here and in other U.S. oyster-growing regions as well.

The FDA says PHP is needed to eliminate Vibrio vulnificus from Gulf shellfish because the bacterium is implicated in about 25 deaths and 90 cases of illness in the U.S. each year. Most of these illnesses result from consumption of raw oysters and clams from the Gulf by persons with liver disorders (including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer); hemochromatosis (a disorder in which too much iron is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract); or diabetes; and those with weakened immune systems due to treatments for HIV/AIDS or cancer.

The Gulf is the nation's leading source of oysters, supplying 70% of nationwide demand, including up to 50% of the oysters processed by local shucking houses.

Some members of the Virginia and Gulf aquaculture industries counter that existing PHP methods are
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Contact: David Malmquist
davem@vims.edu
804-684-7011
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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