ARS Research Helps Make Oysters Safer
by J. Kim Kaplan, AgResearch Magazine
Posted: 2018-01-09 15:54:58 EST

Farmed oysters and clams are the leading species when it comes to U.S. marine aquaculture, with sales of all mollusks at nearly $329 million. They are a delicious, nutritious, and often gourmet addition to people’s diets.

Furthermore, these shellfish are critical to brackish and saltwater ecosystems as they filter and purify seawater. They are also an essential economic engine for communities all along U.S. coasts, fostering tourism, promoting the restaurant trade, and supporting commercial waterfront industries.

On the downside, eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters, is the leading cause of outbreaks of shellfish-borne bacterial illness each year. Annually, about 80,000 cases of vibriosis in the United States are due to the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A different species, V. vulnificus, is the primary cause of shellfish-related mortality and may cause about 100 deaths a year.

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