Harvesters, chefs told to look out for oyster bacterium - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Harvesters, chefs told to look out for oyster bacterium

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NEW LONDON, CT (WFSB) -

Eyewitness News is looking into a warning about how to handle oysters.

State and federal regulators said the key is keeping them chilled from the time they come out of the water until the time they go on your plate, or else you could get sick.

Officials with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture said oysters harvested and sold here are very safe.

But, there's a word of caution to harvesters, retailers and restaurateurs about a vigilant bacteria called Vibrio that can get consumers sick to their stomach if the shellfish doesn't stay chilled.

Seafood retailer Sean Coleman had to take a safety class on it.

"Its all about time and temperature," he said. "Fortunately we have really big coolers to keep our product at an optimal temperature."

According to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, at 50 degrees it will take bacteria 35 hours to double in an oyster.

At 80 degrees, that time frame shrinks dramatically to double in just over an hour and a half.

Nationally, there were 193 cases in 2012, with 55 requiring hospitalization, and six of the victims died.

Only one person in Connecticut is documented to have gotten sick by ingesting an oyster containing the bacteria Vibrio. The problem is bigger in warmer climates, according to restaurateur Dan Meiser.

"By the time that product gets to us, it never sees a life without refrigeration," he said.

The bacteria warning is also going out to the recreational fisherman who get a permit every year to harvest oysters. They need to keep the oysters cold.

"In the home refrigerator it should always be in the back of your refrigerator, it's the coldest part," Coleman said. "One or two days, get rid of them."

Connecticut Aquaculture experts said while there haven't been any outbreaks, June through September are the most critical months to keep the oysters chilled.

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