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Action already taken on oyster imports

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) welcomes the report by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service into an outbreak of norovirus gastroenteritis associated with Korean oysters eaten during a function at Eden Park on 17 June.

"NZFSA experts have been working closely with ARPHS throughout the investigations and support the findings," says Tim Knox, Director (New Zealand Standards).

"We are looking closely at the recommendations put forward in the report and have already taken a number of actions. We have been in contact with the Korean authorities through the New Zealand Embassy in Seoul, and have requested that Korea suspend all exports of this product until such time that New Zealand has confidence in the systems and processes for the harvest and packaging. A copy of the report will be sent to the appropriate officials in Korea as well as to the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), which administers the shellfish regulatory programme in Korea under which exports to New Zealand are also covered.

"Concerns around the safety of all imported shellfish are currently under consideration as part of NZFSA's wider review of a revised import health standard. Proposals are in the advanced stage of development and will be open for submissions within the next one to two months.

"NZFSA's current import standard requires that all imported oysters are clearly labelled as requiring to be cooked thoroughly before being eaten. This instruction has clearly not been followed in this instance and the ensuing outbreak reinforces the need for caterers and those in food service to ensure they read the labels carefully, follow directions and to remember that no food can ever be guaranteed as 100% safe. We are confident that the majority consumers and caterers are aware that all raw oysters are a high-risk food."

ENDS

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