Authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland are investigating a foodborne outbreak suspected to be caused by norovirus in live oysters. The oysters are thought to have come from Ireland and been purified in the UK and it is believed they are no longer on the market. Harvesting records […]

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According to the San Francisco Chronical, Hog Island Oyster Co., that supplies upscale restaurants around the Bay Area will soon resume harvesting oysters in Tomales Bay weeks after dozens of people who ate them raw — many of them at New Year’s Eve parties

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What Are Noroviruses?

norovirus outbreak

Noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. This is more commonly know as the stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis. Noroviruses are also spread by consuming food and water that is contaminated. Noroviruses are highly contagious and anyone can get infected like flu. 

Norovirus infection in mild cases are usually the 24hr bug and can take 1 or 3 days to recover. Severe cases result in dehydration and need hospitalisation.

Infections occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, child care centres, schools and cruise ships. In fact most resorts cases of food poisoning on cruise ships are as a result of Norovirus infection!

Norovirus Symptoms

Flu cases DOUBLE in a week to 2 MILLION as outbreak takes hold across UK
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Muscle pain

Who Are At Risk of Norovirus Poisoning??

As mentioned Noroviruses are very contagious and anyone can get the stomach bug. However, those that are more severely affected include the high risk population:

  • Babies & small children
  • Pregnant moms
  • Elderly
  • Those that are immune-compromised

UK Norovirus Outbreak

food poisoning symptoms

Authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland are investigating a foodborne outbreak suspected to be caused by norovirus in live oysters. The oysters are thought to have come from Ireland and been purified in the UK and it is believed they are no longer on the market.

Harvesting records and purification operations at the unnamed implicated business in Ireland have been checked with nothing proving that oysters harvested at the time were contaminated.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) told Food Safety News that it has sought detailed clarification on traceability and delivery channels.“We have started investigations in relation to this notification from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.

hand washing food safety

It is not yet certain if the oysters that were consumed by the people who became ill were actually from Ireland,” said a spokeswoman.“Nevertheless, at the request of the FSAI, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) checked the harvesting records and purification operations at the implicated business in Ireland. There is nothing to demonstrate that any oysters harvested at that time were contaminated. There are also no other reports of illness.

The FSAI and the SPFA are continuing inquiries.”High risk factors for shellfish-related norovirus include cold weather (low water temperatures), high prevalence of norovirus gastroenteritis in the community, and high rainfall (potentially leading to sewage system overflows). There is no regulatory limit for norovirus relating to shellfish.

According to the San Francisco Chronical, Hog Island Oyster Co., that supplies upscale restaurants around the Bay Area will soon resume harvesting oysters in Tomales Bay weeks after dozens of people who ate them raw — many of them at New Year’s Eve parties — reported falling ill.

US Norovirus Outbreak

norovirus outbreak

Hog Island Oyster Co., whose oysters and other shellfish are served at Zuni Cafe, State Bird Provisions and several other celebrated San Francisco establishments, issued a voluntary recall of its oysters this month, when reports started coming in that people had experienced symptoms of food poisoning.

As of Thursday, 43 people had reported becoming sick after eating the oysters, according to the California Department of Public Health. In four cases, the people tested positive for norovirus, a relatively common gastrointestinal illness that is occasionally found in raw oysters. The first reports of illness came to the company around the end of December, Sawyer said.

Other customers reported their illness to local public health authorities. After multiple reports made it increasingly likely that the Hog Island oysters were contaminated, the company decided to recall the oysters on Jan. 2.

norovirus outbreak

Reports of illness also came to an online food surveillance site called Iwaspoisoned.com. Several people said they had gotten sick after eating oysters at the Hog Island farm store in Marshall.

Two reports came from the Hog Island oyster bar at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Five people said they got sick after eating oysters at a New Year’s Eve party at the Battery. In its recall notice, Hog Island asked restaurants and other establishments to destroy or return oysters the company had supplied.

Forty-one businesses were affected by the recall, most of them in San Francisco and the North Bay, according to the state Public Health Department.

Preventing Viruses in Foods

are wooden spoons hygienic

The first and very clear way to prevent viruses in food is to stop contamination at the source. For oysters, this means oyster farming where the environment is controlled and prevent sewerage from entering the system. The same principle can be applied to vegetable and fruit farming where the water quality is managed.

One of the biggest suspects of food contamination in farming is related to sewerage entering the water supply used to irrigate crops. In the case of bacteria it is also organic farming using untreated cattle manure that presents risks.

Secondly, maintain good personal hygiene, and managing staff that are sick is a critical aspect of prevention. This is especially true in the cheffing industry where you work until you drop, and even then you better be in hospital. 

hygiene food safety

Lastly, managing a good food safety system, where the focus is on bacteria, will ultimately help in risk prevention.

We feel that the only additional requirement for managing viruses in food is by know where your foods are sourced from. And having strict requirements when it comes to oysters, mussels, clams and scollops.