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Crab Vibrio Outbreak Over, But Warnings Remain

Posted in Outbreaks & Recalls,Vibrio on September 29, 2018

The Crab Vibrio Outbreak is over! You know an outbreak is bad when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as several other state and local partners, all get involved together to help investigate the situation. A multi-state outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus caused such a phenomenon. This outbreak is directly linked to fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela, contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which has caused a large number of illnesses, some of which The Lange Law Firm is respectfully representing.

Here are the latest updates!

Updates on the Investigation

September 27th of 2018 came with the unfortunate update of 26 official, laboratory-confirmed Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases, an infection caused by individuals who reportedly consumed fresh crab meat imported from the South American country, Venezuela. These multiple cases have been reported in seven separate states, as well as in the District of Columbia, leading to such a substantial catastrophe that warranted the attention of both the FDA and CDC.

According to the FDA’s recent update, the outbreak investigation is currently closed, though the administration recommends that that both consumers and restaurants seeking crab meat might want to navigate towards pasteurized crab meats, or fully cooked crab meat – that is, crab meat that has been brought to an internal temperature of 165°F at least. Consuming raw or undercooked crab meat puts one at a heightened risk of developing an infection. The FDA specifically warns against users intending to serve crab meat cold: pasteurized or fully cooked crab meat is specifically, professionally, and highly recommended.

Outbreak Over, But Warnings Continue

The FDA stated that, “Processors and distributors should know that the FDA’s Bacterial Analytical Manual (BAM) states that ‘A heat-processed product should not contain viable V. parahaemolyticus and if so, would indicate a significant problem in manufacturing practices or post-process contamination.’” While working with federal, state, and local officials regarding the outbreak, the FDA keenly discovered that the crab meat in question had been labeled as “fresh” or “pre-cooked,” meaning it was a ready-to-eat product, when the facts revealed that it was entirely contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus. According to the FDA,

Bacterial isolates from twelve cases have been analyzed through Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), a type of DNA testing that reveals the genetic makeup of an organism. Through this testing, it was confirmed that all twelve isolates analyzed are genetically related to each other. Nine people (36%) were hospitalized. Illnesses onsets ranged from April 1, 2018 to July 19, 2018.

Toxic Crab

Not only was the crab unsafe to eat, but it was utterly toxic and lead to over two dozen dangerous infections. As of July 13, 2018, the FDA formally advised consumers everywhere to completely avoid eating any fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela, since the risk of it being contaminated with the same bacteria was incredibly high. While the investigation is currently over, “The FDA collaborated with state partners in conducting a traceback investigation. This investigation identified multiple Venezuelan processors that supplied multiple brands of crab meat during the outbreak. FDA’s traceback did not identify a single firm as the source of the outbreak.”

Due to the severity of the outbreak, the FDA dutifully increased their testing measures on fresh crab meat, especially those imported from Venezuela, and have yet to discover another case of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in any samples of recently imported crab. That being said, they have identified Salmonella as well as Listeria monocytogenes in many samples of imported crab meat, but were successfully able to keep it from entering the states.

Testing Continues

Even though the investigation is complete, the outbreak is contained, and the FDA has increased their testing in imported crab, the FDA still recommends that consumers and restaurants remain cautions of fresh crab meats and maintain strict safety measures when handling, cooking, or serving crab for consumption.

Specific Instructions for Consumers and Restaurants

The Vibrio bacteria is a serious bacteria that, once ingested or absorbed through one’s bloodstream, can cause a serious internal infection that can result in diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, stomach pains, cramps, and more. According to the FDA,

Anyone who consumes raw or undercooked shellfish is at risk of contracting Vibrio parahaemolyticus; however, the product under investigation was a fresh, pre-cooked product that may be served chilled or lightly re-heated in various dishes. Children younger than five, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections.

Restaurants are specifically recommended to consider the utilization of pasteurized or completely cooked fresh crab meats, since crab meat can be the direct cause of many pathogens in a kitchen and can easily be the culprit in cross-contamination. Proper food handling is directly encouraged, such as restaurant workers washing their hands with soap and water, keeping fresh crab stored away from other food ingredients, and keeping all food contact surfaces, utensils, and appliances properly sanitized.

Instructions for Consumers

Private consumers of fresh crab meat are recommended to cook all crab meat to and internal temperature of 165°F or hotter. The same food safety techniques should come into play when handling fresh crab meat, keeping all raw foods from touching cooked foods and maintaining a clean food handling area.  When ordering any sort of shellfish at a restaurant, the FDA recommends that one request it be fully cooked unless otherwise treated. If one believes they might possibly have become ill from consuming contaminated crab meat, they should speak with their health care provider immediately.

Conclusion

If you or someone you know has become sick due to the consumption of contaminated shellfish – be it crab or any other meat of the sea – be sure to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Immediate care will not only serve to prevent your infection from worsening, but it could also save your life, especially with cases as severe as vibriosis. 48 million Americans are sickened by a foodborne pathogen every year, a shocking number that leads to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. If you are seeking a law firm to represent your food poisoning case, then please don’t hesitate to contact The Lange Law Firm.

By: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)