California seeks to ease restrictions on Gulf oysters

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 09:34 AM.

A June 27 notice issued by the California Dept. of Public Health is seeking public comment on a proposed rule change regarding the allowable level of microbial Vibrio vulnificus in post-harvest processed Gulf oysters.

Post-harvest processed oysters are regulated as raw, but have been subjected to a process to reduce levels of Vibrio vulnificus. The current rule states that levels must be less than 3 MPN/g (Most Probable Number/gram) whereas the proposed change would allow a criteria of less than 30 MPN/g of Vibrio vulnificus.

Restrictions regarding raw Gulf oysters harvested during April through October that have not undergone post-harvest processing to reduce Vibrio vulnificus will remain in place.

This change would bring California ’s molluscan shellfish regulations into alignment with standards adopted by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program of the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC). All other member states of the ISSC have already adopted the less than 30 MPN/g standard in post-harvest processed oysters.

This newer standard has been deemed safe since it has been in use from 2005, with no documented Vibrio vulnificus infections associated with raw oysters processed at the less than 30 MPN/g level, according to FDA data. This change is anticipated to increase the amounts and varieties of post-harvest processed oysters imported into California from Gulf states .

If you would like to see materials regarding this action you may access them at by clicking on the following links in this order: “Decisions Pending & Opportunity for Public Participation, Proposed Regulations.” Inquiries about the proposed regulations may be directed to Pat Kennelly, chief, Food and Drug Branch, Food Safety Section, at (916) 650-6598.

Erik Lovestrand is the UF/IFAS Franklin County extension director and Sea Grant regional specialized agent II. He can be reached at 653-9337 or

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