Thursday, January 01, 2009

French festive mishaps

From The Times, via The Australian.

Festive foods lead to medical folly for the French

Adam Sage, Paris December 26, 2008

FRENCH hospitals are braced for an upsurge in work over the festive period as revellers injure themselves in the annual struggle with two of the country's greatest passions - oysters and foie gras.
Hundreds of people inflict serious damage on themselves opening oysters at Christmas and new year, while many others cut themselves trying to open tins of foie gras, doctors say. The wounds, which can result in infection, reduced hand movement or the loss of a finger, often require delicate and expensive surgery.
The French Health Surveillance Institute said oyster wounds were "an important public health issue for us". It revealed that 2000 people injure themselves opening oysters every year in France. Forty per cent of the injuries occur in December and January and a quarter between December 24 and January 3.
Patrick Houvet, a surgeon at the French Institute for Hand Surgery, said: "In order to open an oyster, you have to cut the very powerful muscle which keeps it shut and so you need to go at it strongly. It's quite easy for the oyster knife to slip and to end up in your hand." He regularly saw patients who had cut their tendons, nerves or arteries, or all three, he said.
"But the real problem is the mycobacteria on the oyster shell, and the fact that there are little pieces of shell on the oyster knife. That almost always results in an infection."
Dr Houvet said patients often refused to attend hospital straight away because they did not want to leave a party. "But that only makes it worse," he said. They risk a phlegmon, a purulent inflammation described by Dr Houvet as very serious.
"The other thing we see at Christmas is people cutting themselves on tins of foie gras. They try to go quickly and they are perhaps less careful than at other times of the year."
The French eat up to 20,000 tonnes of foie gras annually and 125,000 tonnes of oysters. Amid fears of a slump in demand because of the economic crisis, prices have been cut, with foie gras down by an average of 21 per cent and oysters by 6 per cent.

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