The seafood industry is in damage control mode after authorities issued an industry wide recall on products from the Coffin Bay oyster production zone following a rise in cases of food poisoning from products grown in the region.
The South Australian Department of Health and Wellbeing (DHW) and the Department of Primary Industries ordered all oyster production in the region to cease temporarily and issued the recall for products sold, consigned or distributed for salt from 4th September 2021 to 16th November 2021. Harvesting and sales must be halted for the foreseeable future until the issue is resolved.
Vibrio Parahaemolyticus (VP) is the pesky bacteria responsible for the interruption. Commonly found in marine, coastal and tidal waters, the bacteria is often found in shellfish when harvested. From the same family as the bacterium that causes cholera, VP causes severe gastrointestinal illness in humans.
SA Health deputy chief public health officer Chris Lease advised that there had been 56 Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections linked to eating raw oysters from the region; of those, three people have been hospitalised.
Dire as it may sound, the bacterium can be controlled with food safety controls such as harvesting practices, product sampling and maintenance of the cold chain post-harvest.
Angel Seafood (ASX: AS1) is a producer of oysters in the Coffin Bay area and has had to cease harvesting for the time being. The Company continues to sell some oysters from other bays not in the region. The Company predicts that 2.6 million oysters were harvested and sold over the recall period, however, based on normal shelf life, these would have been consumed by now. The Company is not able to provide an estimate of the quantity of oysters subject to the recall as stock from earlier sales may have been frozen.
Authorities will conduct thorough audits of all onsite oyster production handling practices from growers in the region, and the supply chain and logistics providers. This will help ensure that practices are up to code and further outbreaks do not occur.
Angel has submitted a compliance plan for the upcoming audit and details of updated production and distribution practices once sales recommence. Angel’s oysters are traceable through every step of their supply chain, allowing for isolation and management of potential incidents. The Company did not indicate a predicted financial cost for the interruption.
Production is expected to recommence on November 29th following the all clear from authorities provided compliance with health and safety protocols is met.
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