Analysis of the Costs and Economic Feasibility of Requiring Postharvest Processing for Raw Oysters



 Because of concerns about Vibrio vulnificus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering requirements for postharvest processing (PHP) of oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico during warm-weather months and intended for raw consumption. As described in the paper, feasible PHP methods for warm-weather-harvested oysters include cool pasteurization, high hydrostatic pressure, and low-dose gamma-irradiation. We estimate that the costs of applying PHP are approximately 5 to 6 cents per half-shell oyster intended for raw consumption. However, most oyster processors have insufficient volumes to cost-effectively install PHP equipment. To assist these smaller operations, central PHP facilities operated by a 3rd party would be needed. A geographic information system analysis that minimized volume-weighted travel distances from each Gulf oyster operation identified 6 optimal PHP facility locations in the Gulf region. Even with the establishment of central PHP facilities, some oyster operations will become unprofitable and be at risk for closure.