California Department of Public Health: Just Say No to Seafood

Shellfish in a collander. Credit:

Shellfish in a collander.

While not all seafood is affected, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has just issued an updated advisory regarding consumption of certain recreationally caught mollusks and other edible sea creatures. The original advisory was issued in early June, and warned consumers not to eat recreationally caught mussels and clams, the viscera of scallops caught recreationally, and the viscera (internal organs) of commercially harvested crabs, and the internal organs of commercially or recreationally harvested anchovy, crabs and sardines. The warning included marine animals caught recreationally within Monterrey and Santa Cruz counties.

The updated advisory now warns the public not to consume any recreationally or commercially harvested scallops, mussels, crabs, clams, anchovy and sardines, including internal organs, within the Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Monterrey counties.

“This warning does not apply to commercially sold clams, mussels, scallops or oysters from approved sources. State law permits only state-certified commercial shellfish harvesters or dealers to sell these products. Shellfish sold by certified harvesters and dealers are subject to frequent mandatory testing to monitor for toxins.” (California Department of Public Health)

CDPH states the warning against consumption of these marine animals is due to the detection of dangerous levels of domoic acid. Domoic acid is a relatively newly discovered compound. It is formed by one-celled diatoms, but the process is still unknown. Domoic acid poisoning can occur within 3 to 24 hours after consuming toxic seafood. Some of the symptoms include dizziness, coma, vomiting and death. Some who have survived a poisoning episode report long term side effects of memory loss. CDPH will continue to monitor region and provide updates as necessary.

Remember, not all seafood is affected. Buyers need to be aware of purchasing seafood from approved sources, who receive regular inspections from local and regional health departments. For more information, visit the California Department of Public Health website and their page describing natural marine toxins.

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