CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Mecklenburg County health officials want residents to be careful where they consume raw oysters.
Health leaders believe that a South Carolina resident likely got sick with vibriosis from eating oysters at Fairweather Cocktail and Raw Bar.
Dr. Raynard Washington, public health director for Mecklenburg County, says there’s always a risk when eating raw food, but it is higher in bars since they aren’t inspected.
“We want to make sure that our residents are aware of that,” Washington said. “It’s not to discourage people from patronizing those facilities in a way. It’s really just information so people are aware that there is an additional risk associated with dining in places that we don’t inspect.”
Restaurants are held to a higher standard.
Paul Manley from High Tide Hospitality owns several seafood restaurants, including Sea Level in Uptown. They offer a variety of fresh raw oysters.
“It’s a very safe product or we wouldn’t be in the business,” Manley said. “When the oyster farmers or growers sell a product, they have to put a tag with that product, and that’s the whole idea of a hazard plan is to be able to trace back to origin if there’s ever any issue with an outbreak of oysters.”
Oysters are labeled with tracking numbers that show the origin and date of farming, and tags must be saved for 90 days.
A loophole in North Carolina law allows bars to sell a limited food menu without inspection. The health department says a South Carolina resident likely got vibriosis, a potentially deadly virus, after eating raw oysters at Fairweather in NoDa.
The owner didn’t want to do an on-camera interview. Still, he expressed sympathy for the person who got sick and said as a precaution; the restaurant stopped serving oysters from that supplier immediately.
Washington reminds residents of the regular risk when eating raw food but says health department guidelines help prepare for problems.
“It very likely could not have been at any fault of the bar at all in terms of their handling and service of the oysters but purely because it’s a raw food item that’s being served that had something in it when it got to them,” Washington said.
Manley says he only buys from the freshest suppliers and visits the farms himself. He wants to see a level playing field for all establishments serving food.
“We do trace to make sure that we have trackable good, fresh quality, trustworthy food, but it would be nice if everybody had to play the same game,” Manley said.
Vibriosis comes from bacteria in the water, so it’s more about the supplier than it is about food handling practices. Restaurant owners say customers can always ask where the oysters come from and do research before eating them.