Pilot project tracks temperatures of raw oysters

The BC Shellfish Growers’ Association launched a project to monitor and track the temperature of oysters.

The BC Shellfish Growers’ Association (BCSGA) recently launched a new pilot project to monitor and track the temperature of oysters destined for raw consumption as they travel from the farm to your table.

The raw oyster industry is an important contributor to the economies of West Coast communities. Last summer’s vibrio closure had serious consequences for the industry and for restaurants.

A fall 2015 workshop spawned a national working group focused on vibrio that developed recommendations that focus on education, enhanced testing and improved communication between farmers and government agencies. The pilot project will provide insight into the temperature of raw oysters along the distribution chain.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a naturally-occurring bacteria in the world’s ocean waters. Warm ocean temperatures can increase levels of Vp in the ocean and, subsequently, in oysters.

When Vp is present in the oysters, improper handling can raise the level of Vp and cause illness if the oyster is eaten raw. Keeping oysters iced and refrigerated, from the time they leave the harvest area until they are consumed, is essential.

Darlene Winterburn, executive director with the BCSGA, explains that data gathered from temperature sensors will be used to better understand variations in temperature along the distribution chain and to identify areas where loss of temperature control might occur.

“The study is one of many efforts the shellfish industry and the BCSGA have proactively undertaken to ensure raw oysters remain safe for our customers and consumers.”

Oyster temperatures will be tracked, using waterproof temperature sensors that record every five seconds for up to 15 days.

The temperature tracking pilot study is supported by Paksense, the manufacturer of the temperature sensors, and their Canadian supplier, Precision Label, as well as stakeholders from the national working group, including the BC Centre for Disease Control and BC Ministry of Agriculture.

Results from this pilot study will be used to assess the feasibility of using sensors in the oyster market distribution chain and to determine if a larger-scale study should be undertaken to develop recommendations to change current practices.

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