Oysters and ‘R’ months

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 27th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re all eagerly anticipating the delicious feast ahead of us. But if your holiday menu includes oysters in the stuffing… and you’re contemplating nibbling on a few on the half-shell before you prep the bird… consider this first:

You’ve probably heard the saying about not eating raw oysters in months that don’t include an ‘R.’ But that advice could actually be outdated.

Typically, shellfish are more likely to cause problems in the summer than in the cooler ‘R’ months.

That’s because Vibrio vulnificus [VIB-ri-o vul-NIF-i-cus], the bacteria responsible for shellfish poisoning, thrives in warm saltwater. Studies have shown this is only a problem for people who eat locally harvested shellfish. Most shellfish sold in restaurants and supermarkets is commercially harvested under strict regulations to prevent Vibrio contamination.

Shellfish harvesting areas are often closed at the slightest alarm as a precaution to ensure safe oysters.

If you do happen to eat locally harvested shellfish, just make sure it’s fully cooked, since cooking destroys the Vibrio bacteria.

It’s also never a good idea to leave shellfish out in the heat for any length of time, since it will spoil.

Warm months can be a bad time for oysters because they spawn in summer. While this may make oysters thin, soft and milky, they are not toxic to eat.

In the end, commercially grown shellfish aren’t more likely to be toxic during the ‘R’ months. But if you’re worried, just cook them!