At least once a week, a concerned Oyster Obsession member shares the oyster worm video. You have probably seen it. The camera zooms in tight on a plate of raw oysters. The clatter and voices of a busy restaurant fill the background. An oyster fork turns the oyster over in its shell and a man’s voice says, “Right there.” As he uses the fork to point out the small worm, a woman gasps, “Oh my God! What the hell?” and then “The last time I eat oysters. The last time!” The 50-seconds of footage first appeared on YouTube in 2012 and now has millions of plays on Facebook. It’s everything you could ever want in a viral video. It’s food porn. It’s sensational. And it seems to affirm our worst fears about raw food, especially oysters.
Here’s the truth about the worm. Yes, finding a worm in your food is about as gross as it gets, but it should make you feel better to know three things:
- The worm doesn’t live in oysters.
- The worm in the video is harmless.
- The worm is there because of bad serving practices and was avoidable.
The worm seen in the video is one of a variety of critters that live in the sediment where oysters live. Since they live in the same place, marine worms are often found in the crevices on the outside of oyster shells. They do not live in oysters.
The worms do not harm the oysters or provide any health risk to consumers. In the past, people considered live marine worms on the oyster shells a sign that the oysters were freshly harvested.
So how did our video-star worm get into that shell? It was bad handling. It rarely happens, but a worm on the outside of an oyster shell can get pushed into the oyster with the shucking knife or fall into the oyster from a dirty shell. That last bit is the key, dirty shells. Oysters should be cleaned before they are shipped and again before they are shucked and plated. When properly scrubbed and rinsed, no mud, sand, or worms remain on the oyster shells.
Finally, you can see the original posting of the infamous video here. And if you still want to give up oysters, it just means there are more for the rest of us!
More About Oyster Cleaning and Oyster Worms
- Annie Lu’s video, “How to Clean Raw/Live Oysters“
- “Removal of Marine Worms from the Surface of Oyster Shells Using Salt Brine” from Prince Edward Island Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment
- “Oyster Worms” article from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
- “Worms On Oysters?” A chef’s perspective from Chef Talk.
Oyster Recipes and More…
- What Causes Striped Oyster Shells?
- Can You Really Ignore the R Month Oyster Rule?
- How (and Why) to Read an Oyster Tag
- Search or browse through hundreds of the very best oyster recipes from your favorite magazines, cookbooks, chefs and food blogs. You can find them all (fried, smoked, baked, grilled, sandwiched, stewed, even pickled), right here.