P.E.I. oysters safe to eat, Aquaculture Alliance says

P.E.I. oysters safe to eat, Aquaculture Alliance says

As investigators try to determine the cause of illnesses linked to B.C. oysters, the PEI Aquaculture Alliance is assuring consumers that shellfish on the East Coast is strictly monitored and safe to eat.

"The more that people may be seeing this may become more afraid to eat our seafood and that's not what we want," said executive director Matt Sullivan.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says more than 300 cases of norovirus illness have been linked to B.C. oysters between December 2016 and last month.

Sullivan said so far the publicity around the outbreak hasn't hurt the reputation or sales of  P.E.I. oysters — in fact, he said, some producers have seen an increase in sales out west — but he's worried the longer it goes on the greater the risk it will turn people off oysters in general.

'Steps in place'

"One of our biggest concerns is just around communication and how the public can trust that we have a lot of measures and steps in place to make sure that whenever they eat an oyster it's going to be safe."

The Aquaculture Alliance is part of a working group investigating the cause, and has been part of conference call updates with the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program.

The source of the illnesses — which has caused nausea, diarrhea and vomiting — hasn't been confirmed. But some believe it could be linked to human waste in the water near where the B.C. oysters are grown.

That is unlikely to happen on P.E.I., Sullivan said, because the alliance works with Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to monitor any developments in wastewater treatment facilities that might affect the shellfish industry.

"A lot of it is communication and making sure that we avoid risk where necessary," he said.

Can cook the oysters

The CFIA said one way to be safe is to cook oysters before eating them.

But Sullivan said the market for P.E.I. oysters is fresh and shucked on the half shell, and he sees no reason to change that.

"I still have a lot of faith in the system and I still eat raw oysters and will continue to eat raw oysters."

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