New Zealand Food Safety (MPI) warns public about risk of vibriosis from uncooked shellfish

16 December 2022

Collecting shellfish this summer? Cook it to keep your whanau safe from vibrio

New Zealand Food Safety (MPI) today launched a wide-reaching public information campaign to warn people about the risks of infection from eating uncooked, or partially cooked, shellfish.

This is in response to a notable increase in illnesses caused by the consumption of shellfish containing Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a marine dwelling bacteria, over the last few years.

Says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general, Vincent Arbuckle, "In the most recent outbreak, there were 60 reported cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, between November 2021 and May 2022. Of particular concern is the high hospitalisation rate of almost 42%.

"It's a notable increase in reported cases from previous years, with 24 cases reported earlier in 2021, 16 cases in 2020 and 23 cases in 2019. The reason for the increase is unclear at this stage - it could be caused by environmental change, increased testing and reporting, or a combination of these and other factors – but it is clear that cooking your shellfish kills the bacteria that makes you sick."

The NZ Food Safety Science & Research Centre has Vibrio firmly in its sights and is assessing what we know and need to know about the species in order to better protect the public and our commercial aquaculture industry.  Director of the Centre, Dr Libby Harrison, says research is needed. “While we know that certain strains of V.parahaemolyticus are now causing human illness in New Zealand, we do not have a good enough understanding of why this is occurring.”