Can I Eat Oysters in Months Without an "R"?
There is no reason why you cannot consume an oyster outside of months with an "r", from any where in the world. The reason people say not to consume oysters during the months May through August, is because these are the summer months. There are two reasons to be more cautious during this time period. 1) This is the time of the year that oysters reproduce. When oysters reproduce, first they tend to get a little milky right before and they will not be as full or fat right after. They are not harmful to consume but they might not be as full, tasty or fat as the winter months. Thus the original wive's tale not to eat oysters in months without an "r".
At Ward Oyster we use triploid oysters. These oysters are bred not to spawn or reproduce. This is a breeding process NOT genetic modification. This insures that the oysters we sell in the summer will be fat and tasty. We also have diploid oysters which spawn on our farm for breeding and reproduction but we don't sell them in the summer months.
Reason 2) to be cautious with oysters in the summer months is that bacterias that occur naturally in the waters tend to be at higher levels during the warmer periods. These bacterias can grow at exponential rates if the oysters are not properly handled. Example if they were left out in the sun during hot summer days.
We at Ward Oyster Company not only comply with all the FDA and State warm month harvesting methods but we exceed them. We have even invited the FDA to our facility to see some of our icing techniques that exceed their time and temperature requirements and they seemed to be very impressed. That being said we are always looking to improve and streamline our methods. We have been involved in joint programs with Virginia Tech for the last 4 years where they monitor our bacteria levels and assist us with monitoring new harvest and processing techniques. In fact, we suspended harvesting our farm oysters for the first time last year for a month during August. Even though we were within the federal and state limits we were not within our own self imposed limits. There is always a risk in consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish and eggs especially if you have certain medical conditions (immune deficiencies) . You can eliminate this risk by thoroughly cooking the product. Yet, if you wish to consume raw oysters during the summer months you should make sure you purchase them from a reputable certified dealer, not from someone riding around with them in the back of a truck. You MUST also take responsibility for taking care of your product yourself after you get it. This means keeping your shellfish iced or well refrigerated at all times.
Properly handled oysters should be safe to eat year round, but you should be aware of who you buy them from. We at Ward Oyster take great pride in the product that we sell. Our reputation is on the line, Therefore, we take this very seriously. We want your oyster experience to be a healthy and enjoyable one.