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Holiday oysters are safer to eat when cooked


Last updated 12/20/2007 at Noon

The County of San Diego is advising those who eat oysters to be aware of the health dangers associated with bacterial illness.

Many people may find raw oysters to be a favorite holiday indulgence, but County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten warns diners that thoroughly cooked oysters are much safer to eat.

“Thoroughly cooked oysters reduce the risk of illness from bacteria,” Dr. Wooten said.

“It is important for consumers to know about the risks of eating raw oysters.”

Tips for safely eating oysters:

• Ensure oysters are from a safe and approved source.

• Ask where the oysters were harvested.

• Only purchase oysters with the shells closed.

• Properly refrigerate oysters to minimize the growth of bacteria.

• Wash hands between handling oysters and other food.

• Cook oysters thoroughly in order to destroy the bacteria, eliminating the risk of illness for healthy people and those with underlying health issues. Boil oysters until the shells open and then boil for an additional three to five minutes.

Occasionally, oysters have been found to be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus, bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness.

While Vibrio parahaemolyticus from raw oysters can cause mild illness in healthy individuals, older people and those with weak immune systems are at greater risk for more serious illness.

Symptoms such as watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills may occur.

Anyone suspecting that she or he is ill from this bacterium should contact a healthcare provider.

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