Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FDA to ban sale of raw oysters from Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced its plan to ban the sale of live oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico unless they are treated to destroy potentially deadly bacteria.  The Star (Florida) reports:
The oyster industry, fresh from a surprise announcement at the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference in New Hampshire this week, is reiterating its stern opposition to a newly-announced federal ban on raw oysters during summer months, set to begin in 2011.

Oyster industry officials are saying a proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on raw oysters from May to October will put thousands of Gulf Coast men and women out of work and crush a clean, sustainable fishery.

On Saturday, the FDA told the ISSC that the agency plans to ban the sale of live, in-the-shell Gulf Coast oysters for as much as eight months every year. The proposed ban was developed without public input and FDA officials admit they have not analyzed the economic impact. Officials have also suggested that new restrictions may be in the works for West Coast and East Coast shellfish.
The oyster industry is predictably blasting the decision. Again quoting the Star:
“This would cost us thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars if we were unable to sell our oysters as we do today. The new FDA direction makes no sense – Louisiana is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina,” said Al Sunseri of P & J Oyster Co. in New Orleans.

FDA officials suggested that consumers of live half-shell oysters will willingly switch to frozen or processed versions of the traditional Gulf Coast food, but that’s absurd, according to restaurant owner Chris Hastings.

“I’m not buying a frozen or pasteurized oyster,” says Hastings, owner of the Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, a nationally recognized restaurant specializing in fresh, regional food. Hastings says FDA’s belief that consumers will simply switch to processed oysters is like claiming that people don’t appreciate the difference between fresh strawberries and frozen ones.
Clearly the chefs in New Orleans agree.

"We have one man who's 97 years old, and he comes in here every week and gets his oyster fix, no matter what month it is," said Mark DeFelice, head chef at Pascal's Manale Restaurant in New Orleans. "There comes a time when we need to be responsible. Government doesn't need to be involved in this."

The anti-bacterial process treats oysters with a method similar to pasteurization, using mild heat, freezing temperatures, high pressure and low-dose gamma radiation.

But doing so "kills the taste, the texture," DeFelice said. "For our local connoisseurs, people who've grown up eating oysters all their lives, there's no comparison" between salty raw oysters and the treated kind. [...]
Treated oysters are "not as bright, the texture seems different," said Donald Link, head chef and owner of the Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant in New Orleans.
Just what we need in this recession.  More nanny state regulation that will destroy more small businesses.  Raw oysters are a $500 million industry and the Gulf region supplies two thirds of U.S. oysters.  Remember, much of this area is still struggling to recover from hurricane Katrina, and the Obama administration has decided to deliver another devastating punch.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that all these coastal states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama) with the exception of Florida gave electoral votes to John McCain?   Oh, yeah, and about Florida, all the coastal counties in Florida except Hillsborough (Tampa), Monroe (Miami), and the tiny county of Jefferson in the panhandle were also carried by McCain.

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