Restaurants, retailers, and consumers in several states are advised not to sell or eat oysters harvested from a specific area on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the warning after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found Salmonella and E. coli contamination in samples of oysters harvested from Future Seafoods Inc. harvest area.

The oysters were sent to Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

“Contaminated oysters can cause illness if eaten raw, particularly in people with compromised immune systems. Food contaminated with Salmonella and E. coli may look, smell, and taste normal. Consumers of these products experiencing salmonellosis or E. coli symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and report their symptoms to their local Health Department,” the FDA warning states.

Canada is investigating the cause of the food safety problem. Future Seafoods, Inc. has not yet initiated a recall.

The FDA is awaiting further information on the distribution of the harvested oysters and will continue to monitor the investigation and assist state authorities as needed. As new information becomes available, the FDA will update the safety alert.

Information about Raw Oyster Myths can be found by clicking on the link.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. According to the CDC, infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile.

Anyone who has eaten any of the oysters and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

About E. coli infections

Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated oysters and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications.

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, tiredness, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here.)