Between August and September 1999, a total of 64 cases of illness were identified in three episodes of acute gastroenteritis associated with the consumption of live oysters from a typical outdoor street market in Galicia (northwest Spain). Nine case patients were hospitalized and analysis of their stool samples revealed the presence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus. The strains isolated from two stool samples were studied for antibiotic susceptibility, biochemical characteristics and presence of virulence factors. Both isolates were Kanagawa phenomenon positive and produced thermostable direct hemolysin, which is related to pathogenicity in humans. These results show the presence of pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus in mollusks harvested in Europe and reveal the risk of illness associated with their consumption, suggesting the revision of V. parahaemolyticus risk assessment associated with consumption of raw live shellfish.