June 25, 2012 — The FDA has banned Korea from the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL), and is warning consumers and retails not to eat any type of Korean shellfish — including clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. The products could be grown in water contaminated with human feces, and they may spread norovirus, which causes food poisoning. All Korean shellfish that is fresh, frozen, canned, or processed, which entered the U.S. before May 1, 2012, should be immediately discarded.
The FDA decided to ban Korea from the ICSSL after finding that the Korean Shellfish Sanitation Program (KSSP) did not meet American standards of shellfish sanitation, as specified under the U.S. National Shellfish Sanitation Program. The investigators found that the KSSP failed to manage land-based pollution sources, did not have sanitation controls, and did not test for norovirus in the areas where shellfish were grown. Currently, Korean and U.S. officials are in talks regarding the future of Korean shellfish imports.
The norovirus is a virus that grows in human feces. It can be transmitted to shellfish when it is grown in waters that are contaminated with human feces. Once a person eats contaminated shellfish, the norovirus causes classic symptoms of food poisoning — nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, low-grade fever, aches, chills, and fatigue. Food poisoning symptoms usually begin within 48 hours after the meal is consumed, and they can persist for as long as three days. Although healthy people typically recover, it is possible that the illness could cause life-threatening dehydration, especially for infants, the elderly, people with weak immune systems, or pregnant women.
There have been several outbreaks of food poisoning associated with Korean shellfish up until 2011. In 2012, fortunately, there have been no confirmed cases of Korean shellfish food poisoning. However, it is still possible that food poisoning could occur. The FDA began notifying distributors about the recall several months ago, however, there may still be products on store shelves that contain the contaminated product.
Consumers who eat shellfish should ensure that the product does not come from Korea. Ask store managers where the product comes from. Examine packaged seafood for a country of origin. If there is no information, contact the distributor of the product and ask where it comes from. If a Korean shellfish product is identified, the FDA recommends throwing it away immediately.
Only a small amount of the total shellfish imported to the U.S. will be affected by this recall.
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