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Gulf Oyster Industry Receives Stay of Execution, Still Needs Pardon

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Many in Louisiana this week will be enjoying oysters with their turkey dinner as we give thanks for cuisine unmatched anywhere else on the planet. We can also give thanks to the vocal efforts of seafood enthusiasts and the Louisiana congressional delegation, which prevailed upon the Food and Drug Administration to rethink (for now) a ban on unprocessed raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico for most of the year.

The FDA had announced plans to get the regulatory ball rolling with a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) with the rule going into effect in the summer of 2011. After weeks of controversy, FDA stated that it planned to convene an “independent study” before initiating the formal rulemaking process.

This is no guarantee that the FDA won’t simply pick up where it left off after the study and push through the ban. Sen. David Vitter and others in Congress will seek to guarantee that doesn’t happen with legislation barring the agency from spending any funds on such a regulation.

The FDA said their plan was based on Califronia’s 2003 ban of raw oysters imported from the Gulf. California’s move was of questionable constitutionality considering that is Congress, not the states, who are supposed to regulate interstate Congress.

But Louisiana can take an example from California’s initiative and pass a law asserting that the intrastate harvest, sale, and consumption of raw oysters is not subject to federal jurisdiction under the Constitution; assuring that whatever else, diners here will be able to enjoy this delicacy.

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