Raw oysters: facts and fiction

August 30, 2014

Raw oysters are considered to be a delicacy throughout the world. However, it’s important to remember that without proper precaution the consumption of raw oysters can result in serious illness.

The most common threat when eating of raw oysters, is the bacterium known as Vibrio Vulnificus. This micro-organism is recognised as a primary cause of food borne illnesses, and infection can be serious or even life threatening. The risks are especially high for people who suffer from a compromised immune system, liver disease, or diabetes.

The fiction about raw oysters

There are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the consumption of raw oysters, which can impact a person’s approach to safety.

For example, some people believe that hot sauce is capable of killing any bacteria that might be present in the oyster. This is not the case. The only way to kill harmful bacteria is with proper cooking and prolonged exposure to heat. Another misconception is that consuming alcohol alongside raw oysters will provide a barrier against infection.

Certain people believe that only the oysters that are taken from polluted water can carry the infection that leads to food poisoning. However, the truth is that Vibrio Vulnificus is not linked to pollution. Instead it is associated with the waters in which oysters thrive, live, and grow.

Eating oysters safely

Unfortunately, there is no definitively safe way of consuming raw oysters. As with other seafood, it is crucial for oysters to undergo a full commercial freezing or cooking process to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.

It is vitally important that young children, the elderly, and pregnant women stay away from raw oysters at all times. These people are at a far higher level of risk when it comes to the chances of developing food-poisoning complications.