Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney David Plunkett

Every summer, like clockwork, a number of Americans die after eating raw shellfish, mainly oysters, contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus—a dangerous pathogen most prevalent in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to eliminate these deaths by setting a “performance standard” that would eliminate the deadly bacteria, something CSPI petitioned the FDA to do in 2012.

Unfortunately, the agency has denied our petition, citing among other things its many competing priorities.  While FDA indicates that illnesses and deaths due to Vibrio vulnificus are down, at least in 2013 and 2014, it is unknown whether that dip represents an ongoing trend. 

The take-home message for people who eat raw oysters from Gulf Coast states during warm summer months is that the government is not doing what it should be doing to protect the public’s health.  Therefore, our advice to consumers, especially those with compromised immune systems, is to avoid raw Gulf Coast oysters entirely.