Commissioner Adam H. Putnam

Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Eating Oysters: A Health Advisory

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What about cooked oysters?
    Fully cooking oysters completely kills Vibrio vulnificus, so everyone can enjoy cooked oysters.
  2. What is Vibrio vulnificus?
    Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that occurs naturally in marine waters.
  3. Who is at risk from eating raw oysters?
    At-risk conditions include:

    -- Liver disease, either from an excessive alcohol intake (2 to 3 drinks daily), viral hepatitis or other causes. (Liver disease will put you at increased risk for Vibrio vulnificus infection from raw oysters. The risk of infection is 200 times greater for individuals with liver disease than those without liver disease.)
    -- Iron disorder hemochromatosis
    -- Diabetes
    -- Cancer
    -- Stomach problems, including previous stomach surgery and low stomach acid (for example, from antacid use)
    -- Immune disorders, including HIV infection, and conditions with long-term steroid use (for example, asthma and arthritis).

    If you are an older adult, you may be at greater risk of having these conditions than a younger person.

    If you are or think you may be in any of these risk categories, you should not eat raw oysters. If you are unsure of your risk check with your doctor.
  4. What about eating hot sauce with the oysters? Does it kill the bacteria?
    Eating raw oysters with hot sauce or while drinking alcohol does not kill the bacteria.
  5. What are the guidelines for cooking Oysters?
    In the shell:
    -- Cook live oysters in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes after shells open. Steam live oysters 4 to 9 minutes.

    -- Boil or simmer for at least 3 minutes or until edges curl.
    -- Fry in oil for at least 3 minutes at 375 degrees F.
    -- Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes.
    -- Bake (as in Oysters Rockefeller) for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F.
    -- Microwave for 10 1/2 minutes in a 650-watt oven.

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