Louisiana Oysters are Safe to Eat


LDH continues to monitor the water, and will, prior to entry of oil into an oyster area, close the area in an abundance of caution to ensure no product is harvested that may have been exposed to oil product. Oysters commercially harvested from an open oyster harvesting area, and available for consumption, have not been exposed to oil product, and thus, are safe. Oysters exposed to the spill will not be permitted to be harvested, and thus are not available for consumer purchase. Seafood that is on the market is safe to eat.

LDH sampled water and oyster meat from several beds not impacted by the oil spill in order to determine baseline data on the water quality in those beds. This data was used as beds were considered for reopening upon removal of any oil from the surface, to ensure no oysters are harvested that don't meet the highest standards that existed before the spill.

Oyster and seafood products are being monitored by LDH and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, working together to ensure the quality of our seafood safety. LDH encourages consumers to continue enjoying the finest seafood in the world.

Oyster Testing and Baseline Samples

LDH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program has continued its regular testing throughout 8 million acres of coastal waters along the Louisiana shoreline.

LDH has conducted enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds, as well as from the state's many unaffected beds, to create a baseline sample. This baseline will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears and the beds are reopened. Oysters being harvested in unaffected areas and oysters taken prior to closures of the affected beds are safe to eat. Officials with LDH are working closely with the Governor's Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as the situation develops.

Sensory Training

Ten Louisiana Department of Health Registered Sanitarians attended seafood sensory training at the International Food Protection Training Institute. This federal sensory training program provided the skills to detect taint in seafood by smell. LDH sanitarians used this skill in response to the BP oil spill to determine whether seafood has been impacted by oil. These skills are critical in helping Louisiana determine whether to open or close molluscan shellfish harvest areas. A special National Marine Fisheries Services/Food and Drug Administration Sensory Expert Team trained food safety professionals from the Gulf States, including Louisiana. It is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's National Marine Fisheries Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Highlighted Facts

  • Louisiana has approximately 8 million acres of classified shellfish growing areas. Of the eight million acres, 1.2 million acres are classified as prohibited.
  • Shellfish growing areas are reclassified four times each year. These reclassification periods are November through February; March through April; May through August; and September through October.
  • Two shellfish growing areas are conditionally managed by monitoring river stage influences on the Calcasieu River. These two areas are the West Cove Conditionally Managed Area and the Lower Calcasieu Lake Conditionally Managed Area.
  • Louisiana is the top producer of oysters in the nation.
  • Each and every day 1.3 million Louisiana-produced oysters are consumed somewhere in the US.