The Daily Feed: Raw Oysters Under Fire

Ever slurped a raw oyster straight from the shell? There’s nothing quite like the briny flavor or bracing sensation as the mollusk slides down your throat. Oyster slurping is more than an act of consumption; it’s an expression of culture.

So the FDA stomped some toes when it recently announced it would ban the sale of raw oysters harvested from the Gulf Coast during the warmer months to reduce the (relatively small) number of deaths from their consumption.  Instead, all oysters will need to be sterilized, which some say changes their culinary character.  The ban won’t take effect until 2011, but the backlash has already begun.

Why?  Diners want to make their own choices about what they eat, and what risks they’re willing, or unwilling, to take.  Whether it’s raw beef (steak tartare), raw fish (sushi), or raw eggs (Caesar dressing), we’re faced daily with decisions about whether to consume potentially hazardous foods.

The FDA can’t win. Critics blame the agency for insufficient oversight in reducing salmonella and E. coli, but want the feds to stay far away from their oyster shells.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule.

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