If you have ever eaten raw oysters, those oysters will have been alive.
Those salty little (supposed) aphrodisiacs were living and breathing organisms when you tipped their shells towards your lips. Fret not, it is a good thing, apparently.
Dead oysters cannot be eaten raw, because they contain bacteria that can be very dangerous for humans. If you eat a dead oyster raw, you’re probably going to get ill (fever/chills, vomiting, diarrhoea – among other symptoms).
However, if you want to enjoy your oysters raw (and alive), are you causing them pain?
Seafish is a non-departmental public body set up to improve efficiency and raise standards across the seafood industry. They say that whether or not oysters feel pain is still up for debate.
‘Unfortunately, there’s no definitive proof either way. There are groups that argue oysters might feel pain, and others who say because they don’t have a central nervous system then they don’t feel pain in the way other seafood species might.
We currently don’t have research in this area. ‘As for when they actually die, this is likely to happen when they are shucked, rather than when they are chewed or swallowed.’
Shucking is when the two shells of an oyster are levered apart and fully opened. So, oysters probably aren’t alive when you bite into them or when they hit your stomach if you choose to swallow them whole.
If you’ve bought oysters to open and eat raw at home, you can tell whether an oyster is safe to eat raw quite easily. Is the shell completely closed? If so, the oyster inside should be alive. If the shell is slightly open, flick it with your finger. The shell should close.
If it doesn’t, that means the oyster inside is dead and should only be eaten cooked. Bruce Rennie of chef and owner of The Shore, Penzance said:
‘The reason for eating them alive is simply for freshness and flavour as they still have most of their iron/sea flavoured juices within the meat.’
TNT Food & Drink