SA Health issued an alert on Friday urging vulnerable people to avoid eating raw oysters due to a rise in vibrio parahaemolyticus (VP) cases reported over the last two months.
The food-borne disease is contracted by consuming undercooked seafood and can cause diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and fever.
The Department of Primary Industries today said the number of VP cases recorded since September had spiked to 45, up from 36 last week, and required a temporary shutdown of oyster production while an investigation takes place.
The shutdown at Coffin Bay on Eyre Peninsula is expected to last until early next week. No oysters are allowed to leave the area.
Department of Primary Industries executive director of biosecurity Nathan Rhodes said the “precautionary closure” would give officials an opportunity to trace back recent cases of the disease.
“PIRSA has consulted with industry, who have supported the closure, and has been working with SA Health on the public health impacts of the outbreak,” Rhodes said.
“Many growers had already voluntarily closed their harvesting operations.
“PIRSA continues to work with the South Australian Oyster industry as we investigate the likely cause of this current outbreak.”
The South Australian Oyster Growers Association said it is “deeply concerned” about the recent spike in VP cases.
“We are working closely with both SA Health and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) on identifying the source of this current outbreak,” the SAOGA said in a statement.
“We are examining highly unusual environmental conditions something which has not been seen before in South Australia, which have coincided with this outbreak.”
The association emphasised to the public that raw unshucked pacific oysters should be stored at less than 10C and shucked pacific oysters at less than 5C.
They also said pacific oysters must be discarded if they have been out of the fridge for more than two hours and must be consumed immediately once they thaw out.
“SAOGA will continue to work with processors and retailers to ensure best practice storage and handling methods are followed,” the statement said.
ASX listed Angel Seafood – the Southern Hemisphere’s largest sustainable and organic certified pacific oyster producer, with farm leases in Coffin Bay, Haslam and Cowell – recorded a 6.6 per cent drop in share price this morning following the shutdown.
The Eyre Peninsula company said its safety procedures are “on par with the most comprehensive in the oyster production industry globally” and all of its oysters are “100 per cent traceable through our supply chain which allows us to promptly isolate and manage any incident that may occur”.
“Angel Seafood, along with all growers in the state, is liaising with PIRSA who will conduct audits of onsite oyster production and handling practices as well as those of supply chain and logistics providers,” the company said in a statement to the ASX.
“Angel Seafood stock remains healthy in the water and to any extent sales experience minor delays, they will be sold in the future.”
The Port Lincoln-headquartered company earlier this month reported a 5 per cent increase in September quarter revenue to $2.1 million.
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