Do NOT Consume or Import New Zealand Shellfish
Toxic shellfish from New Zealand can cause paralysis and respiratory failure within 12 hours of being consumed
Public Medical Officer of Health in New Zealand reported that levels of paralytic shellfish poison were “particularly high” along the eastern coastline of New Zealand and urged people to avoid shellfish from the area. Source
Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (“red tide”)
Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a serious illness caused by eating shellfish contaminated with algae that contains a toxin harmful to humans. When this algae increase to high numbers in marine waters, the condition is sometimes (and somewhat erroneously) referred to as a “red tide”.
Which seafood can transmit PSP to humans?
All molluscan shellfish including clams, mussels, oysters, geoduck and scallops can have paralytic shellfish poison. Moon snails and other gastropods also can become toxic. Other marine species, such as sea cucumbers, might also be affected. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts.
Who is most at risk?
Anyone who eats PSP contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness or death.
What are the symptoms of PSP?
Early symptoms include tingling of the lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes of eating poisonous shellfish or may take an hour or two to develop. Depending upon the amount of toxin a person has ingested, symptoms may progress to tingling of fingers and toes and then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty in breathing. Some people have experienced a sense of floating or nausea. If a person consumes enough poison, muscles of the chest and abdomen become paralyzed. Death can result in as little as two hours, as muscles used for breathing become paralyzed.
Does cooking the shellfish make it safe to eat?
No. The poison is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.
What should I do if I think that I, or someone in my family, has paralytic shellfish poisoning?
If symptoms are mild, call your health care provider and your local public health agency. If symptoms are severe, call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room.
Where can I get more information?
Call the Washington State Department of Health’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection at (360) 236-3330 or the Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
Warning! Eating shellfish contaminated with marine biotoxin can kill you.