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FDA Recalls Korean Shellfish, Oysters, Clams, Mussels, and Scallops

June 25, 2012 — The FDA is recalling all Korean shellfish (including clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) due to possible contamination with human feces, which could spread noroviruses responsible for severe gastrointestinal food poisoning. The FDA is asking that shellfish retailers destroy all fresh, frozen, canned, or processed Korean shellfish that have entered the U.S. before May 1, 2012. Korea was recently banned from the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL).

An FDA evaluation of the Korean Shellfish Sanitation Program (KSSP) found that the organization no longer meets standards specified by the United States’ National Shellfish Sanitation Program. The FDA found that the Korean shellfish industry lacked adequate sanitary controls, did not manage land-based pollution sources, and also failed to test for norovirus in shellfish growing areas. The FDA and Korean authorities are discussing ways to fix the problems.

The norovirus is transmitted to shellfish when human fecal matter contaminates waters in which the shellfish are grown. Infection with the norovirus can cause gastroenteritis, a type of food poisoning that causes nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramping, low-grade fever, chills, aches, and fatigue. Symptoms typically begin 12-48 hours after ingestion of the contaminated food, and the illness can last up to three days. It is most serious in infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune symptoms. It can cause severe dehydration that requires medical treatment.

Up until 2011, there were several reported outbreaks of food poisoning linked to Korean shellfish. Fortunately, there have been no reported Korean shellfish food poisoning cases in the United States in 2012. The FDA began notifying food distributors about the recall several months ago. Retailers are taking steps to adjust their supply chain, but there may still be Korean shellfish in restaurants, in products, or on shelves.

Consumers who are concerned about ingesting Korean shellfish should contact the store where the product was purchased and ask about the product’s origin. Packaged seafood should be marked with its country of origin. If there is no marking on the package, consumers can call the manufacturer to ask about the origin. The FDA is recommending that consumers should immediately throw away any products containing shellfish from Korea.

The recall of Korean shellfish will affect only a small amount of the total shellfish imported into the U.S.

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