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Posted in Our Blog on September 10, 2023
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture, conducted an emergency precautionary closure of two approved oyster harvest areas after sample results showed potential sewage contamination. Dealers who harvested from the Groton and Stonington area were urged to recall oysters collected from this area and halt harvesting until a full investigation is complete.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “the affected area will remain closed until the source of contamination is identified and corrected, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture has collected acceptable sample results to open the area.”
Meanwhile, the dealers have issued a recall for oysters harvested from the Groton and Stonington approved harvest area to retailers and distributors in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Oysters may have been distributed beyond these states.
On August 31, 2023, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture initiated an emergency precautionary closure of the two harvest areas, Groton and Stonington. Samples collected between August 28, and August 30, 2023 showed potential sewage contamination, which could lead to contaminated oysters collected from those areas.
Dealers involved in this recall can be identified under the following codes:
The lots include L-30 and L-26B1 and have been distributed to retailers and distributors in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. These distributors may have distributed the potentially tainted product beyond those states.
The FDA is advising consumers not to eat, and restaurants and food retailers not to sell these recalled lots of oysters harvested from these potentially contaminated waters.
The FDA is awaiting further information on distribution of the oysters from the local health agency and says they will continue to monitor the investigation, providing assistance to the state authorities as needed.
Consuming oysters contaminated with sewage can cause serious infection, especially when eaten raw, particularly in certain high-risk groups such as those with a compromised immune system. Generally, contaminated oysters will not look, smell, or taste any different from normal oysters. This makes discerning safe oysters from unsafe ones very difficult.
Certain pathogens, such as Salmonella or E. coli can be lurking inside the unsuspecting shellfish. These illnesses often involve diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever and intensity can range from mild to serious. Depending on the infection, symptoms can begin anywhere from a few hours to several days after exposure.
Several illnesses are associated with sewage contamination of food. Oysters are particularly vulnerable to contamination by the way they feed. Oysters filter water through their body in order to collect algae, plankton, and other particles for food.
An adult oyster can filter up to 1.3 gallons of water per hour. That is over 30 gallons a day! Quite a bit of contaminated water can move through the oyster, allowing a significant number of bacteria, viruses, or parasites to pass through their systems. This can create a serious health emergency.
One type of bacteria associated with sewage contamination is Campylobacter, the bacteria responsible for campylobacteriosis. This is the most common diarrheal illness in the United States, making it a high-risk illness associated with sewage contamination. While some people with the bacterial infection show no symptoms, others can experience any combination of bloody diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Symptoms often start around 2 to 5 days after exposure. For immunocompromised patients, Campylobacter may spread to the bloodstream, resulting in a life-threatening infection.
Cryptosporidiosis is the illness associated with infection of the Cryptosporidium parvum parasite. Like Campylobacter, some people may not show symptoms. Most people, however, will experience diarrhea, loose/watery stools, stomach cramps, upset stomach, and a slight fever.
Escherichia coli diarrhea can be caused by several different strains of E. coli, with one of the more common being E. coli O157:H7. This bacterium is transmitted through fecal-oral route from person-to-person or from contaminated water. Again, some people may experience no symptoms. But most will have watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. About 2-7% of E. coli O157:H7 cases result in a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. This potentially fatal complication is more common in children under the age of 5, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system.
Giardiasis is the illness associated with infection with the parasite, Giardia intestinalis. This is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States. Some people will show no symptoms, though most will experience diarrhea, loose/watery stools, stomach cramps, and upset stomach.
Another bacterial infection associated with sewage contamination is leptospirosis, the disease caused by Leptospira bacteria. While some also will not experience symptoms, others may have high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. Without treatment, this illness can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, or even death.
Salmonellosis is an illness associated with infection with the Salmonella bacteria. The most common strains are Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteritidis. Symptoms often begin around 12 to 72 hours after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps lasting for around 4 to 7 days. Most will recover without medical treatment, however infants, young children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised may experience more severe symptoms – including dehydration, and
Shigellosis is the illness associated with the bacteria, Shigella. The most common strains of shigellosis in the United States are Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri. Some people with shigellosis will experience no symptoms, while others will develop bloody diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that begin a day or two after exposure and lasts about 5 to 7 days. Symptoms can be more severe in infants, young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised, particularly if they become dehydrated as a result of infection. Children under 2 years of age are susceptible to high fever that may lead to seizures.
Typhoid fever is the illness associated with the bacteria Salmonella typhi. Symptoms often include a sustained fever as high as 104 °F, weakness, cough, stomach pains, headache, and loss of appetite. Some patients will develop a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. If treated with antibiotics, people begin to feel better within a few days. Without antibiotic treatment, the fever can persist for several weeks or even months, with 20% of untreated typhoid fever cases resulting in deaths due to complications. In rare cases, certain people can become carriers of the illness. They recover from the illness but continue to shed the bacteria in their stools and spread it to others.
If you have consumed oysters involved in the recall, you should closely monitor your health. If you begin to show symptoms of foodborne illness, reach out to your healthcare provider to report the symptoms and seek medical attention. Indicating your illness may be associated with this potential health event will prompt the appropriate testing and provide helpful data to the local Health Department.
It is also a good idea to consult a food poisoning lawyer. Becoming sick from a foodborne illness is a heavy burden on a person and their family. Medical bills, lost wages, and other personal complications may arise from this type of illness. The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is experienced in helping outbreak victims pick up the pieces in situations just like this. Call today for a free consultation at (833)330-3663 or click here for email.
By: Heather Van Tassell