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Research identifies norovirus in oysters

30 Nov 2011
Research identifies norovirus in oysters

The virus was detected in 52% of the positive samples. Credit: Wiki/Chris 73

Recent research published by the Food Standards Agency shows that 76% of oysters tested from UK oyster growing beds contained norovirus.

The virus was detected at low levels in 52% of the positive samples.

The Agency says that it is difficult to assess the potential health impact of these findings, as the available research techniques are not able to differentiate between infectious and non-infectious norovirus material within the oysters. Furthermore, a safe limit for norovirus has not been established.

Between 2009 and 2011, scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) took samples from 39 oyster harvesting areas across the UK. More than 800 samples of 10 oysters each were tested.

The research will contribute to a European Food Safety Authority review of norovirus levels in oysters, which will advise the European Commission on setting a specific legal safe level for norovirus in oysters placed on sale in the EU. The Agency and the shellfish industry are also continuing to work together to develop controls for norovirus.

Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, said: “This research is the first of its kind in the UK. It will be important to help improve the knowledge of the levels of norovirus found in shellfish at production sites. The results, along with data from other research, will help us work with producers to find ways to reduce the levels of norovirus in shellfish, and work within Europe to establish safe levels.

“Though oysters are traditionally eaten raw, people should be aware of the risks involved in eating them in this way,” he explains. “The Agency advises that older people, pregnant women, very young children and people who are unwell should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked shellfish to reduce their risk of getting food poisoning.”

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The virus was detected in 52% of the positive samples. Credit: Wiki/Chris 73

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