CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Mecklenburg County Public Health leaders are encouraging customers to be proactive about consuming food items at nonregulated establishments.
County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington said Monday that someone was diagnosed with Vibrioses after eating raw oysters at a local establishment.
On July 24, Public Health’s Communicable Disease Division received a report connected to a Vibriosis investigation in a South Carolina resident suspected to be linked to consumption of raw oysters at Fairweather in NoDa. Since the establishment is an exempt bar based on ABC Commission bar definition and thus not subject to Public Health inspection, it can continue to operate.
However, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is pursuing an investigation, with Mecklenburg providing assistance in locating the source of the oysters. The county did not confirm that Fairweather was the source.
By state law, nonregulated bars, which serve limited food menus, do not require inspection by Public Health’s Environmental Health inspectors.
“I want to make the public aware that health inspectors cannot require inspection of nonregulated bars,” Washington said in a release. “If you are a customer, be proactive, look for the inspection certificate, or ask the staff. The occurrence of a food-borne illness is rare, in large part due to the regulation of food establishments. But environmental health inspections do not have universal access and authority to every establishment that serves food.”
There have been three cases of Vibriosis in North Carolina this summer, the county said. People with Vibriosis most often become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year.
Mecklenburg County Public Health has many access points for the public to view information about food service establishments. Inspection reports for food service establishments that fall under public health inspection can be viewed on the Public Health’s Environmental Health page or by simply using the Yelp app to view an inspection.
“We’ve invested in the Yelp platform so we can make sure the information is more broadly accessible to the public. If you look up an establishment, you can also check its last inspection,” said Mecklenburg County Public Health Assistant Director Angela Lee, who oversees the Environmental Health division.
Mecklenburg County said there are proposed changes to state legislation to address the gap in regulations this year.