British Columbia

Shellfish growers fed up with raw oyster ban

The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association wants a month-long ban on serving raw oysters in Vancouver lifted, insisting they are safe to eat.

The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association says jobs are being lost because of a raw oyster ban in Vancouver

The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association says their raw oysters have been tested repeatedly and are safe to consume. (Tourism NB)

Producers of shellfish in B.C. say they cutting jobs because of a month-long raw oyster ban in Vancouver.

The ban on the sale of raw oysters harvested locally was issued because the naturally occurring vibrio bacteria found in oysters grows more rapidly in warm temperatures, health officials said.

But Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association says producers are testing the oysters and they meet health requirements, so the ban should be lifted.

"They are tested five times more than they used to be with the new Health Canada guidelines that are more stringent. So we are 100 per cent confident that before those oysters leave that processing plant they are completely safe to eat," she said.

Local oysters are being sold to customers in the rest of Canada and to the U.S., Stevenson said, so she doesn't understand why Vancouver Coastal Health isn't lifting the ban.

"We will lift the order when public health officials in B.C. are satisfied that oyster conditions in coastal waters are not at a level to be a food safety concern," said Vancouver Coastal Health in a statement.

There is no restriction on the sale of cooked oysters.

Ruining the image

The ban is ruining the perception of oysters, Stevenson said.

"Consumers they just see it once in the back page of somewhere and they are worried forever. It does damage your brand, it is hard to get back to the stellar position we once had," Stevenson explained .

Stevenson wants health officials to investigate other links along the food chain to see where the contamination may be occurring. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has lifted the ban for oysters harvested after Aug. 18, if they have been tested and meet updated food safety requirements. 

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Shellfish Growers frustrated with raw oyster ban with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

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