NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A post that went viral but has since been removed from Facebook criticizing a North Shore restaurant for serving oysters with worms has stirred controversy online.
According to a release issued by the Louisiana State University's Sea Grant College Program, the post about the worm is both fact, and fiction.
Worms that are found on oysters are called mud worms. They are red in color and form symbiotic relationships with oysters, according to the release issued by the program.
In other words, these worms are naturally occurring on oysters, and are unsightly but harmless.
Oysters along the Gulf of Mexico are mostly harvested from both public and private oyster reefs.
According to the report, oysters that grow in their own shells build a habitat that attract what is called, "estuarine organism."
These organisms create a localized "food web," also known as a special interaction between two different species, that may be beneficial or harmful to each other, according to the release.
The report said that is exactly the case with polydora websteri.
Polydora websteri is a marine worm that makes a home inside a live oyster shell. The worm creates an unsightly muddy blister along the interior edge of the oyster, according to the report.
This is where mudworms get their name, according to the report.
"Mud worms can be very common on oysters served in our local restaurants," said John Supan, professor and director of Louisiana Sea Grant's Oyster Research Laboratory on Grand Isle. "They tend to abandon their mud burrows after the oyster has been removed from the water and actually can be a sign of fresh harvest.
The bigger question, are they safe to eat? Supan says yes.
"They are absolutely harmless and naturally occurring," he added. "If a consumer is offended by it while eating raw oysters, just wipe it off and ask your waiter/waitress for another napkin."
Supan also said that if there are children at the table, to ask a waiter for a clear glass of water to drop the worms in.
"They are beautiful swimmers and can be quite entertaining," Supan said.