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worms on oysters?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I just came back from a fine dining restaurant, and I ordered fresh oysters for starters and some of them had live worms on the bottom of the shells... one of which made its way to the flesh...

The waitress told me it's normal since the oysters are fresh? Am I wrong to think it is unacceptable to serve oysters with live worms?
post #2 of 29
The server's conduct was unacceptable. I hate saying this, but whether or not the oysters were problematic, "depends."

A "gold" worm isn't a worm at all, but a sign the oyster has recently eaten. A few red or green worms on gulf oysters, are probably harmless. However, they're a sign the oyster wasn't thoroughly cleaned before shipping and wasn't properly shucked and cleaned before plating. Most worms you see with oysters aren't actually dangerous and were on the outside of the shell, or in shell tubes or crevices until bad handling knocked them inside.

The worms should have been cleaned before the oysters were shipped. At the restaurant, the oysters should have been rinsed in cold water at the time of shucking for the specific purpose of removing worms and grit. I imagine the oysters were gritty, too.

Back to the server: "Normal" in fresh seafood -- except in the sense that they are normal in "worm infested fresh sea food" -- is BS. Although I suppose it would have been a bad sign to find old, listless, dessicated worms instead of young, plump active ones. The restaurant needs to retrain their shucker; and the server should have removed your oysters from the table, removed the order from your bill, and comped you with a different appetizer and a bottle of wine. The answer to, "Miss, there are worms in my food," isn't, "Ain't you never et oysters? That's normal, be-yotch." So much for "fine dining." You were punked.

You should call the the restaurant immediately and let them know you were served worm infested oysters and you aren't happy about it. And ask them how they dealt with the problem; and if they are just now becoming aware, how they plan to deal with it.

BDL
post #3 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks BDL, as usual you are very helpful.


When we first informed one of the waitresses, she even looked grossed out in front of us (I was laughing inside). You can't do that in front of your customers, imagine how THEY would feel? They then had it replaced and discounted the bill.

It was just the comment the manager said while bringing in the replacement which shocked me, she said it as if WE should be aware that having live worms dancing around is quite common. DUH!!!
post #4 of 29
"Just extra protein".

Man, that would gross me out.
post #5 of 29
the only time worms are acceptable are A. in a bottle of tequila or B. in the worm farm out in the garden. Never on a plate in any place and particularly never in a fine dining establishment
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #6 of 29
Ummm...I am glad you had such a jovial, forgiving attitude, moreover since the restaurant stepped up to the plate and comped for it. However, as a foodservice pro, surely you should have known better?

OTOH, what you were served were parasites and clearly unfit for human consumption. I would not patronize that business, anymore than you would for a restaurant that served you spoiled chicken and sent you to the hospital for a few days with food poisoning.

I have worked as an apprentice fishmonger for more than a year, an oyster shucker for day boats, and at least 2 restaurants that regularly served oysters Rockefeller. I have NEVER seen worms. However, I they have been described to me by old timers as really bad news that I should warn someone about.

You do not state what state this was in, but here in California, if you really wanted to make a big enough stink about it, you could probably make it the lead story for the evening news on a slow news day.
post #7 of 29
It just doesn't sound right. I do not care for oysters, and certainly not for WORMS!! My husband loves oysters, but if they came to the table like that it would have been ugly....:eek:
post #8 of 29
That is just totally wrong in more ways than one. In my life, growing up in Florida and working in restaurants for 30+ years, I have shucked more bushels of oysters than I care to think about and I have never encountered worms. They should never have made it in the back door of the restaurant. Obviously whoever is checking in orders is 1.) nonexistent; 2.) under qualified for the position; 3.) doesn't give a rat's posterier about quality or the position.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
I'm in Western Australia (Perth). Maybe the ones we have here is different, I've never had much experience with fresh oysters, so I can't really be sure what to think...

Red Cabbage Food & Wine

After some enquiries, apparently it is not that uncommon to have worms, although the oysters obviously should have been thoroughly cleaned and checked...
post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
I emailed a pro oyster shucker about it and here is the answer:

Thank you for your email.Not quite the remark to make but mudworm is usually found on Pacific oysters coming from Coffin Bay due to the fact sometimes that a juvenile oyster is plumped up for market by lowering them in the racks to the ocean floor where the mudworm can burrow into the shell and when harvested and sent to market and shucked in a restaurant it is disturbed and comes out,usually the chef tries to make sure that it doesn't end up in shell or on the plate,attention to detail,but luckily does not harm oyster or human.I do hope this answers some of your questions.

J e r r y F r a s e r | K i n g o f O y s t e r s
post #11 of 29

I am a professional oyster shucker who deals with both gigas and virginicas.  I can tell you from experience that oysters from different bodies of water come with different "obstacles".  A worm that burrows into the shell of a live oyster is just an example of the fact that oysters themselves play a huge part in the tiny ecosystem of filter feeders.  Finding a live worm, no matter how well the oysters were cleaned, means they are very fresh.  I would shrug it off and be thankful for the fresh sea water in my mouth with or without the worm.

post #12 of 29

This happens but as pointed out "at least they were fresh oysters"" as if they were old in most cases the worms would be dead or gone.The shucker however should be always vigilant of this. I oftern have fresh cod, sword or other fish that I see worm holes. If you put the fish under a heat source the worm will come out. This does not mean the fish is bad. Here in Florida I find it seasonally as our waters at times are to warm and increases the chance of these things.happening. I will not eat nor use Florida clams or oysters in summer months.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #13 of 29

here in the north east we get little oyster crabs that live inside the oyster. They are common like 1 in 3 oysters has one.

 

the crabs to some are considered a delicacy. They are small less than an inch across and the shell is just a thin membrane think softer than the more know softshelled crab.

 

never encountered a worm in an oyster but really dont deal with pacific oysters much. I have come across plenty of flesh parasites in large fish over the years though

post #14 of 29

We love Oysters and I found a small red worm on the tray of one of the many dozens of oysters we have consumed at a local stop in Florida...it was still alive which I much appreciated, it did not like the lime I squirted on it, but I think they had a different shucker that day and they just did not scrub the oysters as well as normal and paying $4 a dozen, I will never complain...(too loudly).  

post #15 of 29

I never eat worms even if they are cultured or not. The worm in the oyster looks so disgusting especially in a fine dining restaurant!

post #16 of 29

Gross!!!!!!

post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by abefroman View Post

Gross!!!!!!

Naw, I think s/he said there was only one! laser.giflol.gif
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #18 of 29

Thats absolutely disgusting. I love oysters but unfortunately I've never checked for this. I'll be sure to do so next time!

post #19 of 29

never had worms either, sadly I have had grit and once even had a small limpet detach itself from the bottom shell as I was slurping up the oyster. The floor manager was very nice when he saw my reaction  and started spitting out shells. they replaced the tray, then when that one was full of grit too, they comped it.

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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #20 of 29

Imagine if you are trying to eat like this size of worm :D

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lg7XL9U6ZQ

post #21 of 29

There's a saying here on the Chesapeake Bay 'only eat oysters with months that end in R'.

 

Perhaps that's a universal saying, but it's kind of a notable rule around the Eastern Shore of the USA.

post #22 of 29

This conversation was very interesting, even though it is years old....

I'm not sure if anyone will see this who posted, or anyone new, but I'm curious if people could have been eating dead worms on "Not so fresh" Oysters?

I could only imagine being the manager and having people complain about worms all the time on your "super fresh" Oysters...


It's also interesting, because the opinions of some people, vary from others, even if their opinion was very informational.  I think the posts of "Professional Oyster Catchers/Shuckers" are interesting, and it seems that the worms, as nasty as they are, are a sign of freshness, whic is good.

The thing is, there was also mention of parasites and crap, so how likely is it to get a nasty worm, or some bad hitchhiker, into these oysters?

It's also interesting that the oysters cannot be fully cleaned of these worms.  I'm not an Osyter/Clam eater so I haven't really had a good look at these creatures, but is there really a lot of places to hide?  They burrow into the shell?  No way to force them out?


JTucker made an interesting comment about how these clams/osyters are important to the ecosystem of these "filter-feeders" so I'm curious if these worms actually do anything to HELP the oysters, possibly flavor/texture wise?

I've heard about brewing beer and the fermentation process, as well as pro-biotics and that fermentation process, and the whole ecosystem and how it's basically a living thing...

OR CHEESE!?  I hear Cheese is also a "Living organism," at least that was a comment on this site, since cheese is cured over time...  I guess the same could be said about meats that use a mold cure?


So I'm curious about the Worms and if they could even be a positive thing, besides how nasty they "seem to be."

post #23 of 29
Quote:
 


So I'm curious about the Worms and if they could even be a positive thing, besides how nasty they "seem to be."

 

Worms in food is never a positive thing.  There is just no positive way to spin it.  Something like this, natural or not, can potentially be a restaurant killer, especially if the establishment centers its business around seafood.  

 

I agree with one of the posters that worms in oysters are a sign the oysters are incredibly fresh.  Hence, the importance of a good, experienced shucker.  When I was a kid, we used to knock the oysters from the peer with a hammer at low tide and sell them for a nickel a piece to whomever would buy them.  When we cleaned them, we removed any young plant growth, algae or hitchhikers such as barnacles.  It was hard work and I still have the scars on my hands to prove it.  Occasionally, we ran into something that was just plain terrifying!  lol. 

 

Restaurants do not pay shuckers very well and the farther away you go from the coasts, the harder it is to find someone who really knows how to properly shuck an oyster.  Here in the Midwest, there are very few establishments (and by "very few" I mean rare)  that will serve raw oysters.  A few high end places might serve oysters on the half shell. Obviously, geographic location is a bit of a concern.  However, there are restaurants all over the this area that serve fresh seafood, as in caught that day, fresh.  Its one of the benefits of being within a 2 hour flight of every coast in the US (except Alaska, of course).  Despite the relatively common fresh seafood joints in the area, very few will touch fresh oysters precisely because of the so called "risk" that is complicated by the scarcity of those who know how to properly shuck an oyster.  There is so much that can go wrong between when the oyster is harvested and when it reaches the plate, that most chefs figure its just not worth the risk. 

 

Anytime I see oysters on the menu out here, one of two things is likely at hand.  1) They're crazy or don't know better or 2) the chef has had experience with oysters and knows what he's doing.  A few well placed questions to the server about the chef and the oysters will usually reveal which one of these possibilities is likely to be true.

 

So, basically, worms in oysters, especially farmed oysters, are common, normal and expected.  Despite the level of gross that goes along with their presence, they are not a sign the oyster is "diseased" or unfit for consumption once the worm has been removed.  But, it is definitely one of those things that must never ever be allowed to leave the BOH....ever.  Like I said, something like that is a potential ice berg for an establishment.

 

-V

"Wine is sunlight held together by water." - Galileo
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post #24 of 29
I work in a seafood restaurant. We serve literally 60 dozen oysters a night. Minimum. They are all from Washington state. We soak & scrub all of our oysters before shucking. we recently had a worm in an oyster that went out for service. It was the first I've seen in at least five years. We find them on the outside all the time and they are harmless... your server probably was just trying to down play it so you wouldn't freak out although it was also probably not the best reaction.
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
 

 

Worms in food is never a positive thing.  There is just no positive way to spin it.  Something like this, natural or not, can potentially be a restaurant killer, especially if the establishment centers its business around seafood.  

 

I agree with one of the posters that worms in oysters are a sign the oysters are incredibly fresh.  Hence, the importance of a good, experienced shucker.  When I was a kid, we used to knock the oysters from the peer with a hammer at low tide and sell them for a nickel a piece to whomever would buy them.  When we cleaned them, we removed any young plant growth, algae or hitchhikers such as barnacles.  It was hard work and I still have the scars on my hands to prove it.  Occasionally, we ran into something that was just plain terrifying!  lol. 

 

Restaurants do not pay shuckers very well and the farther away you go from the coasts, the harder it is to find someone who really knows how to properly shuck an oyster.  Here in the Midwest, there are very few establishments (and by "very few" I mean rare)  that will serve raw oysters.  A few high end places might serve oysters on the half shell. Obviously, geographic location is a bit of a concern.  However, there are restaurants all over the this area that serve fresh seafood, as in caught that day, fresh.  Its one of the benefits of being within a 2 hour flight of every coast in the US (except Alaska, of course).  Despite the relatively common fresh seafood joints in the area, very few will touch fresh oysters precisely because of the so called "risk" that is complicated by the scarcity of those who know how to properly shuck an oyster.  There is so much that can go wrong between when the oyster is harvested and when it reaches the plate, that most chefs figure its just not worth the risk. 

 

Anytime I see oysters on the menu out here, one of two things is likely at hand.  1) They're crazy or don't know better or 2) the chef has had experience with oysters and knows what he's doing.  A few well placed questions to the server about the chef and the oysters will usually reveal which one of these possibilities is likely to be true.

 

So, basically, worms in oysters, especially farmed oysters, are common, normal and expected.  Despite the level of gross that goes along with their presence, they are not a sign the oyster is "diseased" or unfit for consumption once the worm has been removed.  But, it is definitely one of those things that must never ever be allowed to leave the BOH....ever.  Like I said, something like that is a potential ice berg for an establishment.

 

-V



Well, I don't mean positive for the establishment, hahaha, more for the Oyster itself.

So, from what you were saying, is it possible to 100% make sure that the Oysters are "worm free," since others above said that it's really hard to make sure that your'e 100% clean, since they can burrow into the shelll and hide out, until cooking, or whatnot.

By "Farmed" Oysters do you mean caught, or are they being "bred" and "farmed" within tanks as well? 


What's "the BOH?"

Thanks for the information, interesting stuff....

Oysters just sound like a Disaster and a half for an Establishment to even want to serve, but I guess it's done.

post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by LasagnaBurrito View Post

Oysters just sound like a Disaster and a half for an Establishment to even want to serve, but I guess it's done.

 

Crashes can be a disaster and a half for an airline, but flights are still done.

 

Oysters like any other food, if properly handled, held, and prepared are low risk.

 

BOH (back of house)

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #27 of 29

This has been a very interesting thread. In my two and half years working in New Orleans I shucked and ate lots oysters but don't remember the worm part. Maybe I just blocked it out. 

post #28 of 29

We purchase east coast oysters and have more of a crab problem than worms. Tiny crabs burrowing in under the oyster....yuck....

post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post
 

We purchase east coast oysters and have more of a crab problem than worms. Tiny crabs burrowing in under the oyster....yuck....

 

That is what I remember from shucking oysters.  Don't know that I ever found a worm, but those little crabs appeared, if not often, at least regularly.

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