U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-LA) called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its ban on the sale of fresh live oysters from Gulf Coast states during the summer months unless they are processed. Michael Taylor, senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA, announced the agency’s intention to reformulate its policy on processing raw oysters to reduce Vibro vulnificus, a naturally occurring bacterium that can be fatal. The FDA will change HACCP rules to require post-harvest processing during summer months to reduce the risk of Vibrio vulnificus to consumers. New processes like quick freezing or low-dose irradiation could be employed during oyster processing to reduce the presence of the bacteria and federal regulators insist that the taste and texture of the oysters can remain intact through these processes. Melancon, however, believes the ban, which would take effect in 2011, would “severely impact” Louisiana’s oyster and restaurant industries. “The restriction on Gulf oysters, proposed in the name of food safety, is like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said Rep. Melancon. “We all want safer food for our families, but Americans have been enjoying fresh, Louisiana-produced oysters for hundreds of years,” added Melancon. “They are not only a Louisiana delicacy, they are part of our heritage and our way of life. The new policy will strike a blow to the heart of Louisiana culture, costing our state jobs and hurting a unique industry,” said Melancon. Melancon sent a letter yesterday to Donald W. Kraemer, FDA’s deputy director for food safety to request a meeting with Louisiana’s oyster industry representatives to discuss the proposed policy change. When Taylor announced the policy change made in a speech before the International Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) last week he made it clear the agency believes is doing the right thing for public health. “Seldom is the evidence on a food safety problem and solution so unambiguous. The tools exist today to prevent people from becoming ill and dying from the Vibrio vulnificus bacterium. Oysters that undergo post harvest processing treatment will rarely pose a problem; while those left untreated can have deadly consequences,” said Taylor.