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​Norovirus Outbreak Leads to Oyster Sale Ban in France

​Norovirus Outbreak Leads to Oyster Sale Ban in France

Posted by News on 30th Dec 2023

This festive season, a staple of French tradition is under threat. Oysters, long celebrated as a New Year's Eve delicacy, face a ban in southwest France due to a norovirus outbreak causing acute food poisoning.

The Gironde prefecture has warned against consuming Arcachon Bay oysters following multiple cases of food poisoning during Christmas. These oysters, a highlight of the region's réveillon dinners on December 31, are now linked to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. Fortunately, no critical conditions have been reported.

Health authorities have advised a temporary halt in selling these oysters to prevent further spread. "Shellfish harvested in this area are currently unsafe for consumption," the prefecture stated, assuring that the ban will be lifted once the shellfish meet satisfactory health standards.

Oyster farmers attribute this outbreak to recent severe weather. Heavy rains led to overflowing sewage systems, contaminating coastal waters. This environmental challenge has exacerbated the vulnerability of oysters to noroviruses, a recurring problem blamed on underfunded wastewater treatment facilities.

The economic impact is significant, especially for local farmers like Thierry Lafon, who note the crucial role of festive season sales. "This period usually accounts for half of our sales, so the impact is immediate," he explains. The regional shellfish farming committee has announced plans to seek state compensation, citing an "unprecedented economic crisis."

This region, a historic hub for oyster cultivation dating back to Roman times, produces about 10% of France's oysters. With over 25 farms and 700 acres of beds, the ban affects local businesses and a cherished culinary tradition.