Eating raw oysters from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico can and does kill people. Not a lot of people. But it does kill people. The FDA recently was forced to back off from a plan to ban these oysters pending more research into how to keep them from killing said people. Apparently, oyster lovers are a motivated bunch.
Vibrio vulnificus, (which sounds like something from a Lemony Snicket book, but which is actually the name of a bacteria that comes along for the ride in warm-water Gulf of Mexico oysters,) kills about 15 people a year. Most of the cases are people with compromised immune systems. The FDA wanted to ban the oysters while looking in to ways to process them in order to decrease the number of deaths.
The options, however, aren’t tasty. Anti-bacterial processing allegedly makes the oysters pretty much suck and is expensive.
Lest you think the FDA was being paranoid, apparently dying of Vibrio vulnificus is pretty damn awful:
As a public health agency, the FDA is committed to identifying reasonable and workable approaches to reduce unnecessary suffering and death from preventable causes. The FDA staff work every day with state and local counterparts around the country to stop outbreaks of all types of infectious disease. Illnesses from bacteria like Vibrio vulnificus are particularly important to prevent because they can cause loss of skin, kidney failure, amputations, excruciating pain, and death.
They had our attention at loss of skin.
In any case, the FDA says the concerns of the oyster-eaters as well as the economy that needs them to survive are legitimate.
The agency looks forward to working with Gulf Coast officials and industry to accomplish the goal of protecting consumers from Vibrio vulnificus in a manner that is feasible and minimizes impacts on the oyster industry.