Scientists develop process that saves oyster industry

Linda Benedict  |  4/27/2006 8:00:46 PM

Dr. Douglas Park, left, headed a team of scientists that worked with private industry to develop a pasteurization process for raw, in-shell oysters. The oysters are rendered safe to eat with no harm to their flavor or texture. At his right is the renowned musician Pete Fountain from New Orleans, who helped take part in the event at the state capitol. (Photo by Mark Claesgens)

The LSU AgCenter sponsored an event at the state capitol in the spring of 1998 to help acquaint people with the various research activities of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. The oysters being served have been pasteurized using the procedure developed through research. Left to right are Noble Ellington, John Koch, Nick Felton, Charlie Smith and Michael “Hollywood” Broadway of the Acme Oyster House in New Orleans. (Photo by Mark Claesgens)

A partnership between scientists at the LSU Agricultural Center and entrepreneurs in Louisiana’s oyster industry has resulted in a revival of the Gulf Coast raw oyster. Louisiana had been a key supplier of this product. But its marketing was threatened by fears that a deadly microorganism, named Vibrio vulnificus, might be lurking inside the shell. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had required the oysters to carry a warning – strong enough that people did not want to buy them. Research scientists with the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Food Science in cooperation with an industrial firm, AmeriPure Oyster Processing Co., solved the problem. They came up with a heating process, similar to the pasteurization of raw milk, that killed the offending microorganism without hurting the texture or flavor of a raw oyster. The process works so well that the FDA has lifted the warning label on pasteurized raw oysters. AmeriPure owns the patent for the process.
(This article was published in the spring 2000 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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