Published: 13:26, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 13:39, 21 July 2021
The sale of oysters caught off Whitstable has been suspended again as yet more people have fallen ill after eating them.
The town’s famous delicacy was withdrawn on Monday - for the second time in a month - following reports foodies had succumbed to sickness over the weekend.
This came just four days after officials allowed them to finally be served to customers again following a series of tests and a deep clean, ending a suspension first imposed on June 27.
Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “On Monday this week, we received reports of several possible norovirus cases linked to oysters eaten over the weekend.
“At the moment we cannot give an explanation for this.
"We are aware there is a big increase in cases within the local community, but we can’t ignore the fact that the individuals involved also ate oysters.
"The current position is the business has withdrawn the product and is stopping sales.”
The authority says the business appears to be complying with legal controls for shellfish hygiene, but due to the complaints, will be asking the Food Standards Agency to help with an investigation.
The Whitstable Oyster Company farm was shut down towards the end of last month after at least 100 people reportedly suffered sickness.
Public Health England said the first closure of the farm last month came when “a small number” of the people affected tested positive for norovirus after eating oysters in late May and early June.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong - which suspended imports of the oysters - noted pathogens, such as norovirus or toxins, can accumulate in the shellfish if they are "harvested in contaminated water”.
Despite this, a Whitstable Oyster Company spokesman says there is nothing to suggest the most recent cases of ill-health are linked to the shellfish.
“At the moment we are not selling oysters again due to some reported instances of illness over the weekend,” he added.
“We must stress that these oysters were rigorously tested for norovirus and all tests came back negative.
“We are working to establish the cause of the illness but there is no evidence to link our oysters to the complaints of illness.
"There has been a reported upsurge in norovirus in the UK after Covid restrictions, and customers should be assured that our oysters undergo stringent testing and purification before going on sale.”