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Whitstable Oyster Company farm shut down after 'at least 100' people fall ill

A Whitstable Oyster Company farm has been shut down as officials investigate "at least 100" reports of people falling ill after eating the shellfish.

Canterbury City Council, the Food Standards Agency and Public Health England have launched a probe after people succumbed to bouts of sickness and diarrhoea after eating the animals farmed off the Kent coast.

At least 100 people reportedly fell ill after eating oysters
At least 100 people reportedly fell ill after eating oysters

KentOnline understands that at least 100 people have fallen ill.

City council spokesman Leo Whitlock said: "The Food Standards Agency, local authorities and Public Health England are working together following reports of a number of people falling ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after eating oysters.

"The oyster harvesting business linked to the outbreak ceased harvesting, no further oysters have been distributed since illnesses have occurred, and oysters distributed before they were aware of the illnesses have been withdrawn from the market.

"All oysters that were distributed are now past their shelf life. There is no known further risk to consumers."

Mr Whitlock stresses that the batches of oysters have already been identified and that samples are currently being tested.

A spokesman for the Whitstable Oyster Company said: "We have stopped harvesting oysters as there have been some cases of sickness related to our oysters over the past week.

The Whitstable Oyster Company farms off the north Kent coast. Pic: Whitstable Oyster Company
The Whitstable Oyster Company farms off the north Kent coast. Pic: Whitstable Oyster Company

"We have had the allegedly affected batches checked and they are completely clear of norovirus and also within the acceptable range set by CEFAS for e-coli.

"We are currently waiting to be informed when we can resume harvesting, which will be hopefully soon.

"Our safety and testing systems are second to none and we look forward to restarting the supply of our world-famous oysters.”

The spokesman also confirmed that the company's seaside eatery The Forge, also in Whitstable, continues to remain open.

He added that the recent Southern Water sewage leaks in Thanet "will not affect the water quality in Whitstable as it is too far away".

Advice has been issued in light of the bouts of sickness.

Mr Whitlock added: "As always in episodes of gastrointestinal illness, the advice is to pay particular attention to good hand hygiene.

"To reduce the risk of infection, it is vital to wash hands thoroughly using liquid soap and warm running water before and after handling food and after contact with any animals.

"It is also important to maintain food preparation practices to avoid infections and wash fruit and salad items before eating.

"Elderly people, pregnant women, very young children and people who have a weakened immune system should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked shellfish to reduce their risk of getting food poisoning."

Anyone who has vomiting or diarrhoea symptoms and is concerned about their health should phone NHS 111 or their GP for advice.

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable

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