Health Risks and Gastronomic Rewards of Oyster Consumption in Washington State: the Raw Facts
Cheney, John Edward
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Raw oyster consumption patterns and trends in Washington are assessed to inform the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) vibriosis risk assessment models. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the primary naturally-occurring bacterium of concern and is associated with a number of raw oyster-related illnesses each year. As DOH moves to a risk-per-serving analysis in future risk assessment models, raw oyster data points like average serving size are highly relevant. With insight from local restaurateurs, oyster farmers and public health authorities, a raw oyster consumption survey was created and distributed at Seattle-area restaurants and seafood retailers and through social media outlets. Average raw oyster serving size, consumption frequency and other key data was collected from 502 participants during a seven month period from 2014 to 2015. A typical raw oyster consumer in Washington is in his or her early forties, eats seven raw oysters per sitting but does so only once every two months, and favors freshness and locality over affordability. Non-resident, male participants older than the average sample age of forty-two were found to eat the largest quantities of raw oysters per sitting. The DOH can use these data to inform risk-per serving illness assessments on vibriosis, but possibly other pathogens associated with shellfish consumption as well. This study also offers a fresh perspective on seafood consumption data collection methodologies specific to the fine-dining sector.
- Marine affairs