Oyster farms in the Coffin Bay growing area are being progressively opened up for harvesting again, with the first oysters from the area able to reach customers in time for Christmas.
The closure of oyster harvesting occurred in consultation with industry in the wake of reports of consumers becoming ill with Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). The harvesting suspension was to allow businesses to oyster growers time to put procedures in place to minimise any further risk of Vp. SA Health later issued a product recall for oysters from Coffin Bay.
The SA government has been working closely with the oyster industry to lift restrictions as soon as possible, SA minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said.
“We are confident Coffin Bay oyster growers have done everything possible to give confidence to consumers about the safety of their product and we can start seeing South Australia’s famous oysters back on family dining tables in time for Christmas,” Basham said.
“I am encouraging South Australians to get behind our Coffin Bay oyster growers and support them by purchasing local this Christmas. The state government has been working closely with the 32 accredited growers in the Coffin Bay area to ensure enhanced control measures in place to protect consumers.”
According to Basham, the South Australian Oyster Growers Association has shown great leadership in working with growers to implement steps to give consumers confidence in local oysters.
“Growers are implementing procedures to rapidly reduce the temperature of oysters after harvest to further reduce any likelihood of the presence of Vibrio bacteria,” he said. “An ongoing surveillance program has been put in place with regular testing of oysters.”
Restrictions on oyster growers will be progressively lifted as individual businesses demonstrate the safety of their systems, with final clearance to be granted by SA Health.
Basham said an investigation into the cause of the outbreak of Vp had been unable to conclusively determine what had caused the spike in cases, however it is suspected that high temperatures post-harvest may have contributed.
A joint industry/government working group is continuing to support the industry in managing the product recall, while ensuring best practice quality controls are in place for the entire SA oyster sector.
SA Health has varied three emergency orders to allow Angel Seafood Infrastructure Pty Ltd, Pristine Oyster Farm, and Southern Eyre Seafood to harvest and sell oysters from the Point Longnose Aquaculture Zone for their licensed areas only.
Vp can be acquired by eating undercooked shellfish and fish, and like other food borne illnesses can be more serious to vulnerable people such as the elderly, pregnant people and people with compromised immune systems.
Growers impacted by the current outbreak can seek free financial counselling from Rural Business Support (RBS) on 1800 836 211.
PIRSA’s free Family and Business Support program (FaBS) is also on hand to support growers, families and regional businesses impacted. For further information on the FaBS program, visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/fabs.