Death by Oyster

Any shellfish, sushi, or meat eater is familiar with this warning, “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.” Yet we all routinely ignore it, because all those foods are delicious.

The death of a woman in Texas highlights that these warnings should not be taken lightly. Jeanette LeBlanc was infected with Vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria that inhabit coastal waters where oysters live. Infection can occur from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, or exposing a wound to water where the bacteria thrive. LeBlanc, who had gone crabbing and then oyster eating with friends, was exposed to both. Less than 2 days later, she began to experience breathing problems and came down with a severe rash. Twenty-one days later, she was dead.

It’s worth noting that many who contact Vibrio only experience a mild form of infection, with diarrhea and vomiting (not fun, but not necessarily deadly), and usually recover in a few days. According to the CDC, “Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year.” However, some people who are infected with a specific type of Vibrio – Vibrio vulnificus, may become “seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputationAbout 1 in 4 people with this type of infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill.”

Knowing this information, would you still eat oysters?


New Year, Same Food Dangers

Hold the salad, please. Or at least hold the romaine lettuce – a deadly outbreak of E. coli linked to this green leaf has been reported in the U.S. and Canada. At least 60 people have been infected and one person has died as a result of this outbreak.

I happen to be on a romaine lettuce kick myself, but suppose I’ll switch to another variety that hasn’t yet been contaminated. According to Food Safety News:

The risk is ongoing in both countries, officials report. Canadian officials are suggesting consumers in some provinces avoid all romaine lettuce. Government officials haven’t revealed any information about implicated suppliers, distributors or retailers in the romaine supply chain.

So that’s reassuring. It’s worth noting that while the Canadian government is advising against eating romaine lettuce, the U.S. CDC is still conducting their own research:

“Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available.”

Symptoms of E. coli may include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting and usually appear 1-10 days after exposure. People with weakened immune symptoms, young children, older adults, and pregnant women are most at risk for serious complications.

Pan-Frying Your Walrus on Medium? Better Turn Up the Heat!

Let’s get this out of the way: I think walruses are super cute. I think pigs are pretty cute too, but I have no qualms about eating bacon.


The CDC has issued a warning about eating under cooked gaming meat.  There have been two outbreaks of trichinosis, caused by a roundworm, in the last year in Alaska. It should be noted that walrus can only be hunted by Alaskan natives for food or utility purposes. One family was diagnosed after eating walrus meat cooked to “medium”, another after eating it raw.

Trichinosis is usually linked with black bear or polar meat. Multiple outbreaks of trichinosis haven’t been associated with walrus meat since 1992. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, swelling of the face, fever, muscle soreness, and difficulty coordinating movement. It is treatable by prescription drugs.

Cheers to the walrus!