"U.S. Plans Raw Warm-Water Oyster Ban"

"A federal effort to ban the sale of raw oysters harvested during the warm months along the Gulf Coast has kicked up a hurricane of opposition from oystermen and members of Congress and threatened to derail a signature food-safety initiative by the Obama administration.

At issue is how far the federal government should go to save the lives of 15 people each year who die from eating contaminated raw oysters.

A top official at the Food and Drug Administration announced last month that the agency would ban as of 2011 the sale of raw oysters harvested from the Gulf Coast during the warm water months because they are the source for nearly all the deaths associated with raw oysters each year. The agency said processes like freezing and pasteurization that make the oysters safer are available and do little to alter the taste of oysters.

But oystermen and some restaurant owners say the difference in taste between raw and processed oysters is so profound that, were the rule to go into effect, the Gulf Coast oyster industry would be irreparably harmed and a cultural institution destroyed."

Gardiner Harris reports for the New York Times November 11, 2009.

Thursday, November 12, 2009