Tomales Bay Oyster Ban Lifted By Health Officials

KCBS Radio Overnight News
January 17, 2019 - 5:13 pm

Tomales Bay oyster growers said that they got the green light from the state Department of Health on Thursday to resume harvesting the mollusks after a brief closure due to reports that dozens of people fell ill from eating them. 

The ban was lifted after tests on Tomales Bay oysters came back negative for norovirus, according to a message on the Hog Island Oyster Company's website

Hog Island, which runs several raw bars and supplies oysters to many Bay Area restaurants, had recalled 100,000 of its oysters on Jan. 3 due to complaints that customers suffered food poisoning in late December.

State officials have said that 44 people said they were sickened by oysters in an outbreak from December 29 to January 5. Four tested positive for norovirus. 

“We are leaning hard into this issue and working with all stakeholders and agencies to do our best to avoid this happening again,” said Terry Sawyer, Hog Island Oyster co-founder said in the company's statement. 

Although the health department has said the oyster companies can get back to work, heavy winter rains will further delay operation in the bay. 

The popular Hog Island Oyster Company, founded in 1983, remained open during the recall, serving oysters from grown in Washington state and elsewhere. 

Eating raw or uncooked shellfish always carries some element of risk for the consumer, that must be weighed against the great enjoyment many take in them. Oysters and lobsters—now considered a delicacy—were once looked down upon by gourmands and considered the food of the poor. They were prized by many Native American tribes, however, and many middens—heaps of discarded oyster shells left behind by tribes who once lived in the area—are still to be found along the California coast.

Written by Jordan Bowen