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Dianne Feinstein's Bad Oysters
by Robert Gammon
Thursday Aug 23rd, 2012 3:27 PM
Records indicate that the oyster farm that the US senator has been backing was responsible for sickening people at last year's San Francisco Oysterfest.
Dianne Feinstein and other influential backers of a Point Reyes oyster farm have at times justified their support for it by contending that it's an environmentally friendly business. Feinstein and others have made this assertion in their attempt to convince the federal government to extend the oyster farm's lease at Point Reyes National Seashore, a move that would block the creation of the first marine wilderness on the West Coast. However, evidence is emerging that raises doubts about Drakes Bay Oyster Farm — specifically, whether the company has engaged in unsafe health practices that have sickened numerous Bay Area residents.

As the Express reported law week, California public health officials blamed Drakes Bay oysters for a recent outbreak of the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which sickened at least three people. The bacteria causes violent bouts of vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and chills. The bad oysters prompted state officials to warn consumers not to eat oysters from Drakes Bay, and resulted in the company enacting a recall of its shucked and in-shell raw oysters.

Now, public records have emerged that link Drakes Bay oysters to widespread illness following last year's San Francisco Oysterfest at Fort Mason. Numerous festival attendees became violently ill after the event, suffering for days from vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and chills. Records obtained by Marin County environmentalists who closely monitor Drakes Bay Oyster Company show that California public health officials blamed the outbreak at the Oysterfest on the bacterium campylobacter.

Public health officials and Oysterfest attendees immediately suspected Drakes Bay was responsible for the outbreak, because the company supplied most of the oysters at the event, and because it staffed it. On Yelp, numerous commenters, who said they had become very sick after the event, directed their outrage at Drakes Bay.

"Just like everyone else I received a horrible earth shattering bacteria from Drakes," wrote Jarred B. of Oakland. "They should be sued! I missed two days of work and have been to the bathroom over 60 times in a week ... needless to say I'm very upset. Whoever runs that place needs to take a food handlers class or be fired. I can only wonder how many other people are sick that haven't posted on Yelp. Probably thousands. Shame on you Drakes!"

Although state health officials were unable to specifically blame Drakes Bay Oyster Company for last year's outbreak, public records show that the official investigation into what happened was stymied when the oyster company destroyed raw oysters that were left over from the festival. As a result, health officials were not able to test them. "DBOC destroyed all of the evidence," said Gordon Bennett, a respected West Marin environmentalist who obtained the health records through Public Records Act requests.

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