You Should Probably Avoid California Oysters Right Now—Here's Why
Hog Island Oyster Co., a shellfish retailer in Northern California, recalled two of their oyster varieties after 43 people reported falling ill after eating them raw. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California officials have gone so far as to close several commercial shellfish farming areas associated with a possible outbreak for further investigation. Four of the illnesses have been linked to norovirus, a foodborne illness often found in raw oysters.
That being said, recent tests of the oysters and the waters they were harvested in have come back negative for norovirus contamination. But as Hog Island Oyster Co. is a popular distributor, it's unclear as to where impacted oysters may have ended up.
Reports of foodborne illness and other issues linked to Hog Island’s oysters began at the end of 2018, after many became ill from consuming them at New Year’s Eve parties around the Bay Area, the Chronicle reports. The company is a supplier to many fine dining establishments around San Francisco, and supply shellfish to over 40 local restaurants.
The sheer number of reported illnesses prompted Hog Island Oyster Co. to issue a recall of their “Sweetwater” and “Atlantic” oyster varieties at the beginning of this month. The company also issued a statement on their website Thursday saying the California Department of Health has lifted the illness closure for Tomales Bay, the area where the company farms oysters, and that the company will resume harvesting when weather conditions improve.
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“Hog Island Oyster Co. is continuing to collaborate with CDPH and other regulatory agencies to identify the cause of the contamination,” the statement said. “We are leaning hard into this issue and working with all stakeholders and agencies to do our best to avoid this happening again," said Terry Sawyer, Hog Island Oyster's co-founder.
Sawyer told the Chronicle that the company’s oyster bars in Napa, San Francisco, and the Marin County community of Marshall are still open, but are serving oysters from outside the area. None of the possibly contaminated oysters are currently on the market at Hog Island’s establishments or any other restaurants, he said.
We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds and will update this post if more details on this recall become available.