The bill that is supposed to empower the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instead contains some restrictions when it comes to the oyster industry thanks to one Louisiana senator.
Democratic U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu managed to get language in the Senate Food Safety Bill, S. 510, that limits FDA’s authority on postharvest processing for raw oysters by first requiring involvement of state officials and agencies.
Landrieu is out to prevent FDA from doing what it tried to do in October 2009 when it announced that all Gulf oysters would have to go through a post-harvest treatment process beginning in April through October 2011. FDA is concerned about the risk of Vibrio vulnificus infection from raw oysters.
The deadly bacterium is more likely to be present in oysters during warm water months.
But raw oysters are part of the “C’est la vie” culture of the Gulf, especially in and around the Big Easy city of New Orleans. As soon as it was announced, Louisiana’s bipartisan Congressional delegation, led by Landrieu as the senior senator, went nuts.
Needing Landrieu’s vote in the Senate, the Obama Administration backed off and the BP: oil spill in the Gulf last April 20 took attention off the issue.
In a press release from her office shortly after S. 510 was adopted on a bipartisan 73-25 vote, Landrieu said any new oyster regulations must include both public health and cost assessments.
“We simply cannot afford another setback for our oysters industry as it recovers from the BP oil spill,” Landrieu said.
She said at the end of 2009, the delegation and the oyster industry were able to get FDA to recognize its proposal was unreasonable and put up to 3,500 Louisiana jobs at risk.
Landrieu says Americans are five times more likely to die from being hit by lightning than from eating raw Gulf oysters.