The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has back-tracked on its plans to ban the sale of raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico during warm months amid mounting industry and political pressure.

The food safety watchdog said Friday it recognised the legitimacy of concerns voiced by a wide range of trade bodies and local politicians from the US Gulf States as it announced it would review last month’s decision to impose post-catch treatment of certain raw oysters in warmer months from 2011. The body said the food safety measure would”substantially reduce” the estimated 30 deaths annually from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.


But the barrage of criticism it faced in the weeks following tabling of the proposal resulted in Friday’s re-think.

“Since making its initial announcement, the FDA has heard from Gulf Coast oyster harvesters, state officials, and elected representatives from across the region about the feasibility of implementing post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls by the summer of 2011,” said a FDA statement. “These are legitimate concerns.”

The body added: “It is clear to the FDA from our discussions to date that there is a need to further examine both the process and timing for large and small oyster harvesters to gain access to processing facilities or equivalent controls in order to address this important public health goal.”

The US government agency said it would now carry out an independent study to assess how “post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls could be feasibly implemented in the Gulf Coast in the fastest, safest and most economical way”, before pushing ahead with the issue. It gave no deadline for any action but merely said it would meet with its board in March 2010.