According to the San Francisco Chronical, Hog Island Oyster Co., that supplies upscale restaurants around the Bay Area will soon resume harvesting oysters in Tomales Bay weeks after dozens of people who ate them raw — many of them at New Year’s Eve parties — reported falling ill.
Hog Island Oyster Co., whose oysters and other shellfish are served at Zuni Cafe, State Bird Provisions and several other celebrated San Francisco establishments, issued a voluntary recall of its oysters this month, when reports started coming in that people had experienced symptoms of food poisoning.
As of Thursday, 43 people had reported becoming sick after eating the oysters, according to the California Department of Public Health. In four cases, the people tested positive for norovirus, a relatively common gastrointestinal illness that is occasionally found in raw oysters.
Sawyer said the company’s oyster bars in Napa, San Francisco and the Marin County community of Marshall remain open, serving shellfish from outside the region. None of the possibly contaminated oysters is still on the market, at Hog Island’s establishments or any other restaurants.
The first reports of illness came to the company around the end of December, 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.
Reports of illness also came to an online food surveillance site called Iwaspoisoned.com. Several people said they had gotten sick after eating oysters at the Hog Island farm store in Marshall. Two reports came from the Hog Island oyster bar at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Five people said they got sick after eating oysters at a New Year’s Eve party at the Battery.
In its recall notice, Hog Island asked restaurants and other establishments to destroy or return oysters the company had supplied. Forty-one businesses were affected by the recall, most of them in San Francisco and the North Bay, according to the state Public Health Department.
Because the reports came only from California, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not involved in the investigation. The FDA steps in only when food safety concerns affect more than one state.
State public health officials said no one has been hospitalized because of illness from the Hog Island oysters. Norovirus can be serious for people who are immune-compromised, or are very young or very old, but it is usually not life-threatening for healthy adults. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and general malaise.
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If you or a family member became ill with Norovirus after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Norovirus attorneys for a free case evaluation.