Oysters can make for a delicious meal, but they can also carry harmful bacteria. Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp.) is a bacteria found in oysters that increases health risks. This bacteria can cause stomach pain or even be lethal. It is most common during warm summer months, when the bacteria can multiply.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Massachusetts installed Vp. safety measures. After 2 oyster-related illnesses in the state in 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) required Massachusetts to have a Vp. Control Plan for oysters during the high Vp. risk months. This high-risk timeframe is from May to October.
The 2023 Vibrio Control Plan tracks the conditions of oyster harvests in Massachusetts. It also limits the post-harvest growth of Vp. in oysters.
The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) works with Public Health to develop a Vp. Control Plan. DMF regulates shellfish harvesters, while Public Health regulates the dealers that buy from harvesters.