British Columbia Sun

Probers search for culprit behind norovirus outbreak in B.C. oysters

BC

Key takeaways: 

  • Officials say that international recalls and cautions are spoiling the industry’s reputation.
    • Chesney said several months of recalls and food safety warnings impacted his restaurant till a norovirus outbreak traced back to raw shellfish from oyster farms in B.C.’s Baynes Sound was proclaimed over.

Shawn Chesney smiles as he deftly pries opens a ragged oyster shell with a stubby blade and frees the glistening meat inside. Shellfish isn’t only an appetizer at Oyster Express but his Vancouver restaurant. 

“Oysters do top class. They transcend race. They transcend age,” Chesney stated. “Nutritionally, they’re great for you. There’s a romantic element to it.” 

But that romance comes with danger when an oyster’s draw swallows it raw. More than four hundred individuals in the U.S. and Canada became ill with norovirus traced back to raw shellfish from oyster ranches in Baynes Sound between January and April. 

The thin, 40-kilometer channel between Vancouver Island and Denman Island in B.C.’s most prolific oyster farming area. 

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More than four hundred individuals in the U.S. and Canada became ill with norovirus traced back to raw shellfish from oyster ranches

Recalls impacting the industry’s reputation

Norovirus causes stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. The pathogen that makes people ill is spread through human waste and vomit. Cooking oysters at 90 C for 90 seconds destroys the virus. It can also kill business. 

“Even though people love oysters, they will take a break or stay away,” Chesney stated, reflecting on how some months of recalls and food safety warnings impacted his restaurant until the outbreak was declared over at the end of April.

According to Nico Prins, the executive director of the B.C, the damage to the B.C. brand was much more significant. Shellfish Growers Association. 

“I think it’s got a massive reputational effect on the whole B.C. industry,” Prins said of international headlines and recall information that suppressed details of the issue in fine print: the contamination was traced to only 14 out of more than 500 growing areas.

Source – cbc.ca

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