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Proposed Oyster Ban Worries Florida Restaurateurs, Fisherman

October 23rd, 2009 by flanews

The Food and Drug Administration is considering banning fresh oysters from May to October. If approved, oysters harvested during warm months would have to be processed before they could be sold.

Raw oysters can cause food poisoning and occasionally death, mainly among older consumers and people with weak immune systems. Susan Smith, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health, said the risk increases when the temperature rises.

This bacterium that is commonly found in oysters during Floridas hot summer months could have an ill effect on someone who has an immune compromised system, said Smith.

The FDA ban wouldnt stop restaurants from serving oysters, they would just have to be cooked or, if uncooked, the oysters would have to be processed before theyre sold. Restaurants that sell raw oysters are already required to put a disclaimer on their menus warning about the risks. Barnacle Bills, a seafood restaurant in Tallahassee, has been selling raw oysters for 32 years and hasnt reported one case of sickness or death. Owner Jeff Stilwell said the ban would be bad for business.

Any kind of ban on anything just crushes business. You know the rumors, the innuendos, the things that go around. It will probably put half the seafood restaurants over on the coast out of business, Stilwell said.

Restaurants owners wouldnt suffer alone, fisherman would share their sorrows. Ten percent of the countrys oysters are harvested from Floridas Apalachicola Bay where dozens of fisherman depend on the industry to make a living. If approved, the ban would go into effect in 2011.

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