Oyster sales banned as deaths investigated

7th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

ARCACHON, France, Sept 7, 2006 (AFP) - One of France's most prestigious oyster-producing regions was in crisis Thursday as autopsies were carried out on two people who died earlier this week after eating the shellfish.

ARCACHON, France, Sept 7, 2006 (AFP) - One of France's most prestigious oyster-producing regions was in crisis Thursday as autopsies were carried out on two people who died earlier this week after eating the shellfish.

The two — aged 77 and 61 — were taken to hospital at Arcachon in southwest France in separate incidents on Sunday and Tuesday, and died after only a few hours of treatment.

Doctors said nothing could be said for certain until the results of the forensic analysis were published, but it was established that both had recently consumed Arcachon bay oysters.

"It is impossible not to consider the link, even if there is no proof as yet," said Didier Houssin, the director-general of the French health service.

Suspicions were strengthened because on August 31 the government banned consumption of Arcachon bay oysters after tests revealed the presence of an unidentified toxin.

The pair who died are presumed to have eaten oysters collected before August 27 — the cut-off date set in the government's ban — and kept in storage basins. These oysters are also now prohibited.

Arcachon bay's oyster growers were furious at the ban — the third in a year and a half — which they said was based on outdated "mouse" tests. Under these, mice are injected with oyster extract to see if they live.

The two deaths left oyster-growers in a state of shock, but insistent there is still no proven link with oysters.

"We are completely aghast," said Marc Druart, head of the Arcachon oyster growers' association. "To my knowledge, in the world no-one has ever died of oysters."

Some 1,000 people are employed in 370 small-scale oyster-parks in Arcachon bay, a virtual inland lake in the Gironde department southwest of Bordeaux. The 10,000 tonnes of oysters produced every year are among the most prized in France.

Arcachon bay is also a popular tourist destination, and oyster farmers originally accused the government of delaying its consumption ban in order not to scare away visitors.

Last Saturday there were clashes in Arcachon town between security forces and groups of angry oyster farmers, and three people were arrested Tuesday in connection with the incidents.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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