A shellfish company that is renowned for providing high-quality oysters to some of the country’s most upscale California restaurants voluntarily put a halt to its sales of Tomales Bay-sourced products after learning that dozens had suffered food poisoning following norovirus contamination in the bay.
Hog Island Oyster Company has been cultivating and selling oysters since 1983, and in the years since it has grown from a 5-acre shellfish lease to owning 160 acres of land from which it raises the 3.5 million oysters, clams and mussels that it sells each year. It was one of many oyster growers in the area that were affected by a closure imposed by the California Department of Health.
The food poisoning incidents occurred throughout the San Francisco Bay area where Hog Island sells the majority of its product. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the majority of the contaminated oysters were consumed at New Year’s Eve parties, though others may have been consumed at local restaurants.
Forty Three Sickened by Tomales Bay Oysters
The original reports of food poisoning were lodged with the California Department of Public Health, which indicated that at least 43 people had been sickened after eating oysters from the Bay. Four of those tested positive for norovirus, an illness which is not considered life-threatening but which can put those who are medically fragile at significant risk. The most common symptoms of norovirus are gastrointestinal discomfort, including vomiting, diarrhea, and malaise.
Hog Island Oyster Company remained open during the time that the Tomales Bay closure was in place, selling oysters sourced from Washington state and other locations during that time in order to be sure there was no risk of food poisoning. On January 17th the closure was lifted, though the bay will not be opened until the heavy winter rains have stopped.