Shellfish ban after food poisoning cases in south-west France

Several cases of gastroenteritis have been traced to oysters from the Arcachon basin

Authorities believe oysters are behind an increase in food poisoning cases over the Christmas period
Published Last updated

The sale of shellfish from the region has been banned following several cases of gastroenteritis linked to their consumption.

An increase in emergency room visits for gastroenteritis (a severe type of food poisoning) over December 25 and 26 has been linked to shellfish poisoning, prompting the prefect of the Gironde department to ban their sale.

No deaths have been reported and investigations into the exact cause are still ongoing.

People who have purchased shellfish from the area are advised not to eat them and to return them to the point of sale. Remaining stocks have been withdrawn from shelves.

Oysters thought to be cause

“Analyses carried out on oysters from the Arcachon Basin confirm the presence of norovirus [responsible for food poisoning],” said the regional health authority.

In response, the prefecture instituted a “temporary ban on the fishing, harvesting and marketing for consumption of all shellfish from the Bay of Arcachon and the Banc d'Arguin.”

"This will be lifted as soon as the sanitary quality of the shellfish returns to a fully satisfactory level."

Read more: Day 12 French regional Christmas specialities: Seafood platter

Alongside the ban on commercial shellfish products, people have been ordered not to engage in recreational shellfishing in the area.

Industry uneasy over ban

“Preventing contaminated oysters from ending up on consumers' plates is the top priority for the industry, even if it has serious economic consequences," said the Arcachon Aquitaine Regional Shellfish Farming Committee in a press release.

However, the committee was quick to ask who would meet their losses during the busy period, suggesting that the presence of the illness was caused by wastewater issues which were beyond their control.

“It is clear that the Arcachon Basin… is a victim of saturated wastewater and rainwater networks, leading to overflows into the natural environment and contamination of production areas,” it said.

The industry was affected by storms that destroyed “several hectares” of oyster beds earlier this year, and the committee says the new ban will cause a “serious economic crisis”.

It is the third time since 2020 that the harvesting of oysters from the area has been temporarily banned, however the current ban during the busy Christmas period is set to be particularly damaging.

Related articles

Empty oyster shells recycled into innovative products in France

Sea birds blown off course and into south west France by storm