Officials investigating tainted oysters

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Published: March 31,2010

Tags: food safety, oysters

JACKSON COUNTY — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with state health officials from Mississippi and Louisiana to notify consumers, food service operators and retailers nationwide about an outbreak of norovirus associated with oysters recently harvested from an area near Port Sulphur, La. known as Area 7. The oysters were sold or distributed nationwide.

Public health agencies are warning consumers not to purchase or eat oysters from the affected area and warning retailers and food-service operators not to sell or serve them. Louisiana’s Area 7 is in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The FDA was notified by state authorities that nearly a dozen consumers in Mississippi fell ill with norovirus after eating raw oysters from the affected area March 10. Norovirus is a foodborne pathogen that can cause acute gastroenteritis in humans.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has recalled oysters harvested from Area 7 from March 6-24. State health officials closed the area to harvesting March 24 to protect the public health.

Public health officials are currently working to investigate potential sources of pollution that may have caused the area to become contaminated.

Consumers who are uncertain about the origin of oysters they have in their possession should contact the place of purchase to determine if the oysters are from the affected area. Retailers and food service operators can check the tag or labeling that should accompany all raw molluscan shellfish to verify their origin.

Eleven people reported becoming sick after eating raw oysters at a conference center in Jackson County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Test results by the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed that the patients were infected with norovirus.

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