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FDA to ban sale of raw oysters from Gulf of Mexico

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer Cain Burdeau, Associated Press Writer – Tue Oct 27, 4:18 pm ET

NEW ORLEANS – Federal officials plan to ban sales of raw oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico unless the shellfish are treated to destroy potentially deadly bacteria — a requirement that opponents say could deprive diners of a delicacy cherished for generations.

The plan has also raised concern among oystermen that they could be pushed out of business.

The Gulf region supplies about two-thirds of U.S. oysters, and some people in the $500 million industry argue that the anti-bacterial procedures are too costly. They insist adequate measures are already being taken to battle germs, including increased refrigeration on oyster boats and warnings posted in restaurants.

About 15 people die each year in the United States from raw oysters infected with Vibrio vulnificus, which typically is found in warm coastal waters between April and October. Most of the deaths occur among people with weak immune systems caused by health problems like liver or kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, or AIDS.

"Seldom is the evidence on a food-safety problem and solution so unambiguous," Michael Taylor, a senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration, told a shellfish conference in Manchester, N.H., earlier this month in announcing the policy change.

Some oyster sellers say the FDA rule smacks of government meddling. The sales ban would take effect in 2011 for oysters harvested in the Gulf during warm months.

"We have one man who's 97 years old, and he comes in here every week and gets his oyster fix, no matter what month it is," said Mark DeFelice, head chef at Pascal's Manale Restaurant in New Orleans. "There comes a time when we need to be responsible. Government doesn't need to be involved in this."

The anti-bacterial process treats oysters with a method similar to pasteurization, using mild heat, freezing temperatures, high pressure and low-dose gamma radiation.

But doing so "kills the taste, the texture," DeFelice said. "For our local connoisseurs, people who've grown up eating oysters all their lives, there's no comparison" between salty raw oysters and the treated kind.

A Gulf Coast oyster — or better still, a plate of a dozen oysters on the half-shell — is a delicacy savored for its salty, refreshing, slightly slimy taste. Some people add a drop of horseradish, lemon or hot sauce on top for extra zest.

Treated oysters are "not as bright, the texture seems different," said Donald Link, head chef and owner of the Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant in New Orleans.

"This is an area the government shouldn't meddle in," Link said. "What's next? They're going to tell us we can't eat our beef rare?"

Until the 1960s, raw oysters were rarely eaten in the summertime. (The old adage was never eat oysters in the months without an R in them.) But changes in harvest patterns and advances in refrigeration and post-harvest treatment have made the industry a year-round business. About three-fifths of the Gulf's oysters are harvested during the warm months.

The FDA is promoting a ban because high-risk groups are not heeding warnings about raw oysters, and millions of other people may not know they are vulnerable.

If federal officials require post-harvest treatment, they "will be ruining an industry that has been around for centuries," said Sal Sunseri, co-owner of P&J Oyster Co., a French Quarter oyster wholesaler.

"We've been doing this the same way since the 1920s," said his brother, Al Sunseri, as shuckers in rubber gloves worked their way through piles of raw oysters destined for oyster bars and restaurants. "We're located in the French Quarter. We're not going to get the permits we need to do post-harvest processing. We don't have the space for it."

In Plaquemines Parish, the Louisiana "boot" that juts into the Gulf south of New Orleans, 49-year-old oyster harvester Peter Vujnovich Jr. said the FDA was "totally out of its mind."

Croatian-Americans like him have been harvesting oysters for decades in the area's brackish bays and lakes. He said the ban added insult to injury after he spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading his boats to meet recent refrigeration regulations.

The FDA contends treating oysters would not affect the taste and would save lives.

"Oysters that undergo post-harvest processing treatment will rarely pose a problem," Taylor said, "while those left untreated can have deadly consequences."

The FDA cited California as the best example. In 2003, California banned untreated Gulf Coast oysters and since then "the number of deaths dropped to zero." By comparison, between 1991 and 2001, 40 people died in California from the infection.

The rule would not affect oysters harvested outside the Gulf. Oysters are harvested up and down the West and East coasts, but the bacteria is not found in such high concentrations there.

Some in the industry, especially the handful of companies that have invested in high-tech treatment technology, praise the FDA plan.

John Tesvich of AmeriPure Processing Co. in Franklin, La., said the industry has "suffered from all the negative publicity" associated with Vibrio vulnificus. He said his oysters, which are treated in a warm bath, taste as good as any others. "We have thousands and thousands of satisfied customers."

But most of the oyster industry is worried.

Anita Grove, executive director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce in Florida, said a ban would be crushing. She said oyster harvesters, shuckers, truckers and dealers are "the backbone to our economy. It's always been that way."

Avery Bates, vice president of the Organized Seafood Association-Alabama, predicted two-thirds of Alabama's 50 "mom-and-pop oyster shops" would close, mostly because of the cost of treating oysters.

"We see more people die each year from peanuts, chicken, E. coli, beef," he said. "It's like singling out a certain section of the food industry."

October 31, 2009 at 7:42pm

Looking for opinions on a gun rack for my rhino. Got some rough trails at the camp and I want one I can trust but also be able to get to pretty quickly. Would like one that would take a shotgun or a scoped rifle.

October 26, 2009 at 12:46pm

Found this on another forum and thought it would be an interesting post.

I pulled these stories off another board. I did not come up with these stories so I don't know any more details than what is written here. All I did was cut and paste. Might make me look over my shoulder more than usual. For those of you going out into the woods early in the morning this weekend, be careful when you hear the leaves rustling. You never know what is lurking out there.

The weirdest thing I heard about tho was a guy I know that was sitting in his treestand one afternoon about 10 years ago watching 2 groups of deer in a small field in front of him.

These deer were 40 or so yards apart and 50 yards in front of him. The field was only about 80 yards across then the woods started again. Anyway, these two groups of deer suddenly snapped up their heads and looked across the field into the woods. My friend saw nothing and watched as these deer started turning their heads as if following something that had walked out of the woods and right between them heading in my friends direction.

My buddy said he didn't see anything as the deer kept looking and following it with their gaze as if they were actually seeing something cross the field between them. Frank also said the hairs on the back of his neck were standing straight up and he smelled something terrible, like rotten meat.

Then he heard it. Crunching leaves as footsteps walked into the woods right in front of him and continued walking right under the tree he was sitting in. He kept hearing the footsteps and a weird sort of whispering until it got farther away and eventually faded from earshot. He looked back to the field, the deer were feeding again as if nothing had happened.

My friend climbed down and backtracked the imprints/disturbed leaves 10 yards to the field edge where whatever it was had walked in. There, in the soft mud at the fields edge, he found bare human footprints that were facing backwards !!
He left right then and there with his stand still in the tree and never hunted that woods again.

True story folks. He won't even talk about it.

Here is the second story.

First of all, I want to say hello to you all. I'm an ex-LEO, father of 4 and have been a hunter most of my life. I no longer go into the woods, but do fish on the lake in my spare time.
I've been a lurker for quite awhile and have never posted before now. I very much enjoy reading the great stuff here. After seeing these writing about strange goingson in the forests, I felt compelled to reply.
After reading what I have to say, you'll see why.

I don't know Mr. Thunderhead or his friend.
But, what he says is true. I have seen this myself, twice.

Both times were in the same woods. I thought I was crazy the first time and seeing things, and talked myself into dismissing it to my overactive imagination.
I was wrong and paid dearly.
I refuse to talk about that part and am only telling this so others will heed the warnings about the dark.

The second time I was alone in my shack long before daylight opening morning, exactly one year to the day after my first encounter.
As I poured a cup of coffee, I heard footsteps in the leaves, hit my light and like before, could see nothing.
My blood ran cold.
I knew it was happening again as soon as I heard the whisperings as it drew closer.
I shut my eyes as tight as I could, this time the footsteps didn't keep going, but stopped at the window to my shack. The stench of rotting meat was sickening.
All I'm going to say is that when I opened my eyes what stood outside my shack glaring at me thru the window was something straight out of **** itself.
That's all I'm going to say.
I've never steeped foot inside a woods again and never will.

October 07, 2009 at 11:29am

Found this female chocolate lab in norwood/jackson la off of whitestown road off of spillman road. Shes recently had puppies. Very friendly. She wouldnt let me leave her at the camp. When I would get in the truck, she would jump the tailgate. If shes yours or you know whos she is let me know. Or if youd like her to be yours, contact me. Im not sure what to do with her. Looked for puppies and couldnt find any. She never left my side for the few hours I was there; around the club working on stands and workin on the camp itself. So I wouldnt think there were puppies.

September 22, 2009 at 1:08pm

I remember a few years ago in the LA Sportsman mag there was an article about a guy from La that moved to Maine. No crawfish there, so he boiled, not steamed, lobsters like we boil crawfish. Well, I lost the recipe. I had tried it once and it was awesome. Anyone that remembers that recipe or has one like it, please share. Thanks.

August 16, 2009 at 5:14am

Lookin for comments on the NEF 444 handi rifles.
Range? Accuracy? Legalin LA and MS for muzzleloader season? More accurate and flatter shooting than 45-70?

July 21, 2009 at 5:43pm

Lookin for comments on the NEF 444 handi rifles.
Range? Accuracy? Legalin LA and MS for muzzleloader season? More accurate and flatter shooting than 45-70?

July 21, 2009 at 5:42pm

Any details of a gator attack in the pearl?

June 23, 2009 at 6:04pm

Trying to get the registration stickers off of my fiberglass boat and they're not coming off real easy; fiberglass pulling off with the sticker. Any ideas?

April 14, 2009 at 6:24am

Where can I find artificial crawfish pellets bait around North Baton Rouge? Coops? Feed Stores?

April 14, 2009 at 6:22am

Anybody know whats going on with the national oil bargaining? Looks like times running out. They better throw out a good contract.

January 27, 2009 at 4:57pm
A comment titled: Good hunt in response to a report titled: Why feed beagles?

Good hunting man. Just like in most hunting clubs, nobody wants to see anyone kill anything, unless its them of course. If you wouldve said you did this with dogs, they wouldve found something to say about that.
Keep killin em.

February 24, 2010 at 6:08am
A comment titled: Area 1 in response to a report titled: Petition for Area 6 season changes!

Part of Area 1 and southwest mississippi is the same way. I know the deer around Wilson rut early season, I heard something about them being implants from when stocking the area.
But the deer in Norwood, St. Francisville, Woodville, Ft Adams, all along the river, had a very late rut that is explained just like the area 6 rut. We need to start pushing to do something in area 1. Im not a biologist, so Im not sure of anything, but in my opinion something needs to be done.

February 20, 2010 at 4:47pm
A comment titled: Ben Lily in response to a report titled: Vintage Vault: Special Edition

That was a good read. Google search Ben Lily. One of the greatest predator hunters, with hundreds of lions and bears to his name. I think Teddy Roosevelt hunted with him. And he's originally from La

February 18, 2010 at 1:19pm
A comment titled: Hills in response to a report titled: Is Fort Adams under water?

Yep. The hills are full of em now.

November 09, 2009 at 8:26pm
A comment titled: Avoid the situation in response to a report titled: Gators while Duck Hutning

Dont put your dog in that situation. Its not fair to the pup. He's "Your best friend." You know the possible consequences; he doesnt. That pup depends on you to take care of him; he's just gonna do what you tell him to do, to please you; not knowing the danger. If its not cold enough to hunt him safely, dont hunt him. And like the other said, by the time you could draw down on the gator, it'd probably be too late. Hope I didnt come off too bad, just take care of your pup man.
But bust em if you ever got to.

November 09, 2009 at 8:18pm
A comment titled: Firebox in response to a report titled: Smoke House

Hey man. You gonna build an enclosed firebox or just like a fire ring with stovepipe goin to smokehouse? Im building one soon and looking for suggestions. I saw one where it was just a fire ring with the pipe and it was just like keeping a camp fire going. The smokehouse vent was pulling enough draft that the firebox wasnt enclosed.

November 01, 2009 at 5:31pm
A comment titled: Goodwill in response to a report titled: Box Stand Chair?

Whats the goodwill in Baton Rouge? Salvation army?

October 13, 2009 at 5:47pm
A comment titled: Wire Brush in response to a report titled: Lab training question

Seperate the bristles on a wire brush and have her retrieve that. Might soften that bite up a bit.

October 13, 2009 at 5:31pm
A comment titled: Spooked in response to a report titled: Story for Foul Mouth

So thats it huh? Cant spook any more of yall outta the woods?

October 13, 2009 at 4:20am
A comment titled: Windigo in response to a report titled: Story for Foul Mouth

A creature they call "Windigo". Supposedly been around in indian folklore forever. Yall be careful out there.

October 08, 2009 at 9:59am
A comment titled: Woods in response to a report titled: Story for Foul Mouth

Crazy stuff in them woods

October 08, 2009 at 6:29am
A comment titled: North American Hunting Club web site in response to a report titled: Story for Foul Mouth

got this from the same site as the other two stories.

Four years ago i was walking back to camp after deer hunting one evening. I was walking on a long, narrow old dirt road and the trees had formed a canopy over the road. That scene got my heart beating just from being creepy looking, but that was nothing compared to 5 minutes after that. As I walked down this road I thought I heard foot steps in the leaves about 30 or 40 feet into the woods. The sun had recently gone down, but the tree canopy made it even darker so I could not see very far. The steps seemed like they were keeping stride with me, so I brushed it off as an echo to start with. After a minute or so, I knew it was not an echo. I started trying to catch it taking an extra step by walking a few steps and then stopping suddenly. Everytime I stopped, the footsteps stopped. By this time I am really getting nervous and short tempered. I stepped up my pace and was walking along at a steady rate. Then, in the middle of a stride, I stopped my foot about 1 inch before it touched the ground. CRUNCH! What ever was walking beside me finished it's step and crunched the leaves. I was so scared I was almost numb and started feeling sick. It was dead silent for about 5 seconds with neither of us moving. Then, all of a sudden, the footsteps started coming towards me. I new it was not a small animal, because besides the leaf crunching there was a definite light thud with every step. Like when you run in hiking boots. I shouted at whatever it was to identify itself or I would shoot. As I was shouting I was reaching for a gun. "Where did I put my rifle???" "Please God, hel....pistol!" I guess I was too terrified to think straight. "where is my d***n Pistol?". I finally found it in it's holster on my belt. Mind you all of these thougts are happening in miliseconds. (turned out my rifle was on my shoulder...ha...that is 9 kinds of scared when you can't find your rifle on your shoulder, I'm here to tell you.). Thankfully I finally found my Sig on my hip. I pulled that 45 so hard that I ripped the hammer snap clean off the holster. I emptied 2 magazines of .45, and then remembered my shouldered 30-06. I pulled the rifle around and started bolting rounds as fast as I could squeeze the trigger. After emptying the 4 round magazine, I pulled a fresh magazine out of my pocket and bolted a new round. About this time I have my wits about me and remember my 500,000 spot light that is in my back pack. I pulled my hunting knife and cut the back pack open down the side instead of taking the time to untie the wonderful knot I had put in leather tie straps before leaving my blind. Found the spot light and lit up the woods. NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I stood there dumb founded. I could not believe that there was nothing there. When I started firing into the woods, the foot steps were 10 feet from me, and still coming my direction! I walked to the edge of the woods and discovered that I was not crazy. There were human size footsteps in the leaves running parallel to the road I had been walking. Sure enough, they turned and started coming straight towards the road I was standing on. But then they just stopped. I mean plumb somebody had taken flight and just disappeared into the sky. Before that night I had never been scared to be in the woods alone. I consider myself to be a man who can hold his own in the worse of situations. I have braved odds before that would make many men buckle. But that night I was scared. I mean "want your mommy" scared. Before that night I had cried 2 other times in my life. That night was number 3. I never went back into the woods on that property without a buddy. Say what you will about me taking a buddy with me, but you weren't there.
After reading the stories from those links at the beginning of this thread, I can't help but to wonder if I met with the same creature that night. I don't remember smellng rotten meat, but the wind was to my back when I was looking into the woods. I remember that because I dang near strained my neck two times from whipping around after being hit in the head with leaves blowing off of the trees behind me. What really creeps me out is that I heard the whispers. Until tonight I thought that weird noise was just the wind whistling through the trees. It was very distinct whispering, but at the same time sounded distant and muffled. I should not have ignored that sound, because I KNEW deep down inside that was not the wind. I could not reproduce the sound if I tried. I am not someone with a vivid imagination so I guess that's why I did not think twice about the sound until now. At the time it just made sense to assume it was the wind, because the wind was blowing lightly and I was in the woods. Normal stuff ...usually. I am greatful I did not know what was making that sound at the time, because I would have had to add wet pants to my admmition of tears. Guy's, I actually screamed 'Help Me', to God, as I was squeezing the first round off from my Sig. As I was firing that pistol, I promised God that if he would help me live through that night that I would not miss church any more on Sundays to go hunting. That lasted 2 weeks. I think he understands.

October 07, 2009 at 1:03pm
A comment titled: Made to go in response to a report titled: Found Chocolate lab

Hey man. Had she already had pups when you saw her? Sounds like to me somebody in town probably got tired of her hangin around and packed her out there.
Looks like I might have a home for her with a nice family in watson. Good people.
And bout the Yota, been havin it for a year and a half, and hasnt been stolen.

September 24, 2009 at 12:39am
A comment titled: pup in response to a report titled: Found Chocolate lab

Yeah I made myself ride all the way back up there just now. Left my other pups at home so they wouldnt bother us while I looked more for the pups. She kept jumping back in the truck. Finally it thundered and I followed her under one of the camps. I could tell thats where shed been sleeping. No pups. So I dont know. Took her back home with me.

September 22, 2009 at 3:35pm
A comment titled: video in response to a report titled: Deer cam pics

Hey man. Thats one of the moultries that uses 6D batteries? You got all those videos and pics with one set of batteries? Ive never used the video feature on mine cause I figured it wouldnt last long on the batteries.

September 13, 2009 at 8:15am
A comment titled: Lobster in response to a report titled: Lobster Recipe

Thanks eman. Anyone else?

August 17, 2009 at 6:31pm
A comment titled: Traps in response to a report titled: help pleaze!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Pierre Part Store

July 26, 2009 at 4:59am
A comment titled: 444 in response to a report titled: 444

Thanks for the feedback. What size scope are people putting on these?

July 21, 2009 at 7:42pm
A comment titled: Thompson Creek in response to a report titled: Thompson Creek

What did you catch em on? Thats a nice haul.

May 03, 2009 at 4:59am
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