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By FDOH Escambia

April 03, 2017

Pensacola, Fla. – As warm weather approaches, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County (FDOH-Escambia) urges residents and visitors to protect against foodborne illness by avoiding the consumption of raw or undercooked oysters and other shellfish.

Naturally-occurring bacteria in warm coastal seawater becomes more abundant in the summer months and can concentrate in the tissues of oysters and other shellfish. According to CDC, an oyster that contains harmful bacteria does not look, smell, or taste different from any other oyster. When a person eats raw or undercooked shellfish, the bacteria that may be present in the shellfish can cause illness.

Individuals who become ill from eating raw or undercooked shellfish may develop symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. Persons with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions may experience more severe symptoms.

“Each year, we see cases of foodborne illness resulting from eating raw or undercooked seafood, particularly raw oysters,” said FDOH-Escambia Director, John J. Lanza, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAP. “I cannot stress enough the importance of enjoying oysters and other seafood that are properly handled and cooked.”

Reduce your risk for foodborne illness:

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked shellfish. Thoroughly cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) before eating;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw seafood. Preferably, wear protective clothing (e.g., disposable gloves) when handling raw seafood;
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood;
  • Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood; and
  • Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.

Follow these cooking tips for shellfish:
Shellfish in the shell:

  • Before cooking, discard any shellfish with open shells;
  • Boil until the shells open and continue boiling 5 more minutes or steam until the shells open and continue steaming for nine more minutes; and
  • Only eat shellfish that open during cooking. Discard shellfish that do not open fully after cooking.

Shucked oysters:

  • Boil for at least three minutes or until the edges curl;
  • Fry in oil for at least three minutes at 375° Fahrenheit;
  • Broil three inches from heat for three minutes; or
  • Bake at 450° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

For more information, call FDOH-Escambia’s Environmental Health office at 850-595-6700 or visit the Department’s Food and Waterborne Disease Program.
About the Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
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