British Columbia’s farmed oysters are famous for their quality and taste. Oyster bars around the globe feature raw oysters farmed right here – in our local waters.
Shellfish are filter feeders and, as a result, natural bacteria, viruses and plankton toxins pass through their systems. The shellfish are not impacted by these organisms, but – if the conditions are right – they can build up in the shellfish meat and cause illness in humans when consumed raw.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a naturally-occurring bacterium that inhabits British Columbia’s coastal waters. During warm summer months, the levels of bacteria in the water increase and bivalve shellfish, especially raw oysters, can become contaminated. Human Vp infections are associated with eating raw shellfish or exposure to recreational water contaminated with Vibrio.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has very comprehensive information about Vibro as well as Tools and Resources available on its website.
The shellfish farming industry is highly-regulated and monitors the environment and the shellfish meat, specifically and diligently, to ensure the products you purchase are clean and safe. We encourage you to purchase your shellfish from your local shellfish processor, distributor, market or restaurant. Enjoy.
As with all proteins (e.g., beef, eggs, pork, spinach), thorough cooking of shellfish reduces the risk of food-borne illness. Individuals with certain health conditions may be at higher risk if these foods are consumed raw or undercooked.