Texas A&M researchers develop safe oyster technique

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Good news for oyster lovers: Texas A&M University researchers have developed a way to pasteurize oysters without using chemicals or heat to help reduce the chances of food poisoning.

The researchers are using an electron beam to pasteurize  the oysters.

Oysters can become contaminated with norovirus or hepatitis A from being handled by a sick food service worker or from contamination in the waters where they were harvested, according to researchers. If eaten raw, oysters contaminated with either virus can make people sick.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all shellfish be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees, but many people like eating oysters raw.

Pasteurization is one way to address the health risk of raw foods, according to researchers.

The Texas A&M scientists found that the E beam was able to reduce norovirus levels by 12 percent and hepatitis A levels by 16 percent in highly contaminated oysters. At more moderate levels of contamination, the E beam method reduced norovirus by 26 percent and hepatitis A by 90 percent, without the need for chemicals or heat.

A study on the innovative process will appear in the June issue of the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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