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January 18, 2019

In a blow to seafood lovers everywhere, California health officials announced this week that dozens of consumers have fallen ill after eating raw oysters harvested from the northern part of the state.

“At least 43 people have fallen ill after eating the oysters, four of whom tested positive for norovirus, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, citing the California Department of Public Health.”

“Norovirus, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, among other symptoms, is sometimes found in raw oysters, according to the publication.”

Hog Island Oyster Company, the company responsible for harvesting and selling the product has voluntarily recalled all oysters suspected to have been affected by the pathogen. They also ceased the trapping of oysters in Tomales Bay, where the disease is thought to have originated.

“The first reports of illness came to the company around the end of December, [co-founder Terry] Sawyer said. Other customers reported their illness to local public health authorities. After multiple reports made it increasingly likely that the Hog Island oysters were contaminated, the company decided to recall the oysters on Jan. 2.

“This is a temporary situation. Oysters will flush themselves of all viruses. We are working with local, state and federal health departments to test and ensure the safety of our shellfish and we will resume harvesting when the bay reopens,” it added.

However, recent tests of the oysters and the water in Tomales Bay have come back negative for the virus. The source of the contamination hasn’t been identified.

Hog Island founder Terry Sawyer says they have been given the ‘all-clear’ to resume harvesting, but now the weather is preventing that for the time being.

"The company said Thursday evening that the state has finished testing and lifted its closure on Tomales Bay harvesting, though the bay remains closed because of rain. Sawyer said he hopes to start harvesting again early next week.

“Everything’s come up negative on our side, but we’re trying to find the source and what we can do about it,” Sawyer said. “In the long run, we have to look at how we can improve after this.”

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