Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mad Kul Disease*

UPDATE (June 4, 2012):
I probably should have included the link to the Washington Post story on the same subject a few days later. I'm doing it now since GI Korea at ROK Drop just added a post on this same topic. I'll add what I wrote there:
Food caught in the Yellow Sea can be nasty. Even as Korea has cleaned up much of its effluent, China has stepped in to fill the void. Anything caught in the Yellow Sea should be heavily scrutinized.
Maybe now my semi-clever catchphrase of the day (the title up above) will finally catch on.

Given that some South Korean supermarket chains have stopped selling American beef and the ROK government is eyeing imports with suspicion, I guess it's only fair that the US government would ban imports of shellfish from Korea over contamination issues as well:
The Washington State Department of Health is advising consumers not to eat any fresh or frozen shellfish that comes from Korea.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that all fresh and frozen shellfish, and many products made from these shellfish, shipped from Korea to the United States may be contaminated. This includes frozen breaded shellfish products from Korea; canned shellfish are not affected. States have been advised to treat Korean shellfish products as being from an unapproved source.

Effective immediately, FDA has removed all certified dealers in the Korean Shellfish Sanitation Program from its Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List. This stops the shipment of fresh/frozen molluscan shellfish from Korea to the U.S. Molluscan shellfish includes oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops, except canned products.

There have been no reported illnesses in Washington associated with Korean products. The state health department is recalling all Korean shellfish as a preventive measure, and is working with distributors and local health agencies. Consumers who have already purchased these products and have them at home should not eat them. For more information, contact FDA (

Shellfish grown and produced in Washington are not affected.
This is the result of November 2011 incident in which frozen oysters from Korea were linked to an outbreak of norovirus in Washington State's King County. Three people were reportedly sickened after eating oysters at a restaurant in the Seattle area.

I'm glad they're taking this seriously. The only bout of food poisoning I've ever had in fifteen+ years living in South Korea (off and on since I was a teenager) was from oysters I bought at a food stand in Pusan, and it wasn't pleasant. That was a long time ago, though. Most seafood I eat is usually thoroughly cooked in a stew, although I do enjoy raw fish from time to time, in reputable eateries. With the advent of Yelp, I imagine such incidents will become even rarer, as careless restaurants see a downturn in traffic.

Oh, wait. I take back the "only time" thing about food poisoning. In 2005, I got food poisoning from the Starbucks at the US Army Garrison in Yongsan. Apparently there had been a power outage on the base, and the refrigerators had been out for hours. The Starbucks employees, thinking that the milk was still safe since it had remained in the unopened fridges and it was "ultra-pasteurized," served it to customers after the power came on again.

Since I'd ordered a beverage with especially high milk content (despite my lactose intolerance), I got a very heavy dose of whatever bug was in that spoiled milk (whose mildly spoiled taste was masked by the tea and sweetener). The food poisoning that suddenly hit me two hours later was the worst I've ever felt. I was so sick I could not drive the two miles back to my house without stopping every 200 yards to keel over until I felt good enough to sit up again. And the weird thing was that I wanted to just go to sleep, but when I closed my eyes I actually got dizzier.

Two days later I went to the Starbucks to complain, and they gave me two free coffee coupons. Score!

(In the US, I've gotten food poisoning from eating cheesecake in Yellowstone National Park when I was in middle school, and from eating duck pizza at California Pizza Kitchen a few years ago. There was another time I thought I had food poisoning in Korea, but it turned out to be appendicitis.)

* Kul [굴] is the Korean word for oyster.

Don't try this at home, kids!


1 comment:

  1. This is getting ridiculous.


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.