British Colombia is a significant supplier of oysters around the world. Recently, there has been an outbreak of oyster-related illnesses that are a risk to human health. For example, between 2015-2018, there were outbreaks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) and noroviruses, which result from consuming raw or under-cooked oysters.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) and noroviruses?
Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a marine bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses, also known as infectious diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis bacteria. On the other hand, noroviruses.
Noroviruses are a highly contagious virus that cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Following these oyster-related illnesses outbreaks, Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) and the Ministry of Agriculture are funding three projects to help in the identification of strains of norovirus and Vp and also change how the outbreaks of oyster-related illnesses will be handled. The three types of research will also assist in food safety investigations.
Food Safety Tools and Outbreak Management
The first two projects are lead by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These projects will help the Regional Health Authorities, the BC Shellfish Growers Association, and the Public Health Agency of Canada in developing food safety tools and shellfish-related illness outbreak management.
These two projects will also reduce the number of oyster-related illnesses, enable early identification of contaminated oysters, and come up with the best preventive measure for preventing Vp contamination of oysters.
The third project, through collaborations of the BC Shellfish Growers Association and Vancouver Island University’s Dr. Tim Green, focuses on coming up with a new tool to prevent farmed oysters from being contaminated with norovirus.
All these projects aim at ensuring that BC oysters are safe for human consumption and also ensure that oyster farming is well protected to avoid contamination of oysters with norovirus and gastroenteritis bacteria.
Shellfish farming is a primary industry in British Columbia with a revenue of about $62 million annually.