The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

FDA Acts to Protect Consumers from Vibrio in Oysters

Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal


For 15 years, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been urging the Food and Drug Administration to protect consumers from Vibrio vulnificus-the deadly bacteria found in almost all Gulf Coast oysters
harvested in warmer months. The FDA announced this weekend that the
agency will now require those oysters shipped to other states to be
processed to kill the pathogen.

That's a major advance for public health, one that will prevent 10 to 25 needless deaths
each year. Technology to kill these dangerous bacteria has existed for
many years, but the shellfish industry has steadfastly opposed
requirements that it be used. Numerous plans to address the hazard have
been tried, but they have ultimately proved ineffective.

One plan was effective, but it was only available to the citizens of California.
When the state of California banned the sale of untreated Gulf Coast
oysters deaths plummeted from about five a year to zero. As the FDA's
Mike Taylor said over the weekend, seldom is the evidence of a food
safety problem and its solution so unambiguous. This is the approach
being adopted for consumers nationwide by the new FDA policy.

More broadly, this move by the new leadership at the FDA is
yet another signal that the agency is reasserting its vital public
health and consumer protection mission. This long-awaited action on
tainted oysters follows FDA's action to require on-farm controls for Salmonella in eggs.

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.