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Proposal to Halt Raw Oyster Ban

US - Efforts to thwart a federal plan to ban the sale of fresh oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico during warm-weather months gained momentum in the US Senate last week when three key lawmakers introduced a bill to block funding for the proposal.

Specifically, the legislation, filed by US Senators Bill Nelson, Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, would prevent the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from using funds to implement a ban on sales of oysters that don’t undergo a sterilisation process.

Identical legislation was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday by Congressman Allen Boyd.

Many in the oyster industry fear the FDA proposal would put them out of business because of the costs involved to obtain sterilisation equipment and some worry it could cause some consumers to shun oysters altogether –sentiments shared by the three Gulf Coast lawmakers. “The FDA has gone overboard in proposing a ban on raw oysters,” said Senator Nelson. “It’s like trying to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer. Well, there's some of us in the Senate that are going to try to not let this happen. We’re going to stand up for the people, businesses and communities whose livelihoods depend on the oyster industry.”

“This is a serious overreach by the FDA and it must be stopped,” Senator Landrieu said. “This regulation puts our entire oyster industry at risk and could force thousands of Louisianians out of work. We simply cannot let that happen, and this legislation is one of many solutions I plan to pursue.”

“Seafood plays a big role in Louisiana’s culture and history and state economy,” said Senator Vitter. “Typical of the federal bureaucracy once it decides to act, the FDA is going overboard. Banning raw oysters is an irresponsible solution to a problem that could be solved through increased education and awareness. Not only are our gulf oysters a delicacy for all to continue to enjoy, but they also support a local industry that employs thousands of individuals employed in the seafood industry along the Gulf of Mexico.”

The legislation was filed in response to an announcement last month by the FDA that it planned to prohibit the sale of raw oysters from Florida, Louisiana and Texas from April to October unless they had undergone post-harvesting processing. The FDA says the move is needed to prevent Vibrio vulnificus (V.v.) infections, which cause as many as 15 oyster-related deaths a year. Most Vibro deaths occur in people who have weak immune systems or suffer from other serious medical problems.

the Fish Site Editor

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