Oyster industry unhappy with new federal rules (VIDEO)


NEW ORLEANS – Leaders of the Louisiana oyster industry told state health officials, they cannot live with new federal refrigeration requirements.

“It’s an overburden,” Peter Vujnovich said. Vujnovich is a third generation oyster farmer from Port Sulphur. “It’s overkill in a lot of ways.”

Federal regulations require that oysters be refrigerated within one hour of harvest in order to be sold raw.

In Lousiana, we’re a little bit different because so many other states fish in small boats. They’re in close proximity to the docks, so it’s easy for them to unload; they don’t have the problems we have,” said Rodney Fox, the owner of the R&A Oyster Company. “With the boats we have and the areas we have to fish, one hour just isn’t enough time.”

Industry leaders voiced their concerns with the federal regulations Tuesday afternoon in Baton Rouge, in a meeting with Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Public Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry and State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard.

Simply put, Louisiana oyster producers said, the feds are over-regulating to try to prevent Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, oyster-related illnesses that are not a problem in Louisiana.

“We’re a 135-year-old business,” Al Sunseri said of his P&J Oyster Company in the French Quarter. “Our company has never been epidemiologically linked to a Vibrio case, so us having to refrigerate oysters within one hour is absolutely ludicrous.”

The current state law says the Louisiana DHH can exempt oyster harvesters and oyster dealers from those federal requirements if they haven’t been linked to any Vibrio cases.

At the meeting, industry and health leaders also discussed the possibility of a new state law that would require refrigeration within six hours of harvest, for all oysters to be sold raw within the state of Louisiana.

Leaders of the oyster industry said after the meeting, a six-hour law would be just as safe and far more achievable.

More meetings are expected.

See video here: http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20110202/wire/110209874

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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