The “R” Myth
Chances are, if you’re an oyster fan, especially in the warmer Southern climate, you’ve heard of the “R” rule when it comes to consumption of raw oysters. This “rule” suggests that raw oysters should not be consumed in months that do not end with the letter R–explicitly May through August. Did you know that this is actually an extremely dated rule of thumb? You can read here how it was debunked by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1964.
Most people maintain the fear of Vibrio vulnificus, which can cause sickness when a person is exposed to contaminated seafood. The common misconception with the “R” myth is that during the warmer months raw oysters are more subject to spoiling more easily in the heat of the warmer days. While this pathogen can indeed cause sickness, incidences of illness are very carefully monitored by the USDA and not very prevalent.
Another reason behind the “R” myth is that during these months not ending in “R” wild oysters had time to repopulate. This means that during these warmer months it was understood that oysters were spawning. The truth is, spawning oysters are not actually harmful to eat, they just are not particularly tasty.
As oyster aficionado Julie Qiu puts it,”The R rule once helped to give wild oysters time to repopulate. But these days, many varieties have instead been bred to not spawn at all, allowing them to be harvested and consumed year-round.”
So, there you have it. If you have a craving for oysters in the summer, my friends, we aren’t telling you to avoid your tummy!