FDA warns consumers about paralytic shellfish poisoning in some contaminated shellfish

The FDA has warned restaurants and retailers to put a pause on serving consumers oysters and clams from specific regions in the Pacific Northwest - UnSplash +

The affected fish have been coming from the Pacific Northwest

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to restaurants and retailers to put a pause on serving consumers oysters and clams from specific regions in the Pacific Northwest, as the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning is on the rise. 

The FDA explained that some shellfish can become contaminated with paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) just from exposure to affected algae in the water. However, sometimes these toxins grow and spread without contact with contaminated algae. 

“Food containing PSTs may look, smell, and taste normal,” the FDA wrote in its warning. “These toxins cannot be removed by cooking or freezing. Consumers of these products who are experiencing symptoms of illness should contact their health care provider and report their symptoms to their local health department.” 

What shellfish to avoid

The FDA is urging consumers to be aware of the following shellfish: 

  • Oysters and bay clams harvested from Oregon growing in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay, harvested on or after 5/28/24

  • Shellfish species growing in Willapa Bay, Wash.

    • Stony Point, harvested between 5/26/24 and 5/30/24

    • Bay Center, harvested between 5/29/24 and 5/30/24

    • Bruceport, harvested between 5/29/24 and 5/30/24

  • Shellfish distributed to restaurants and retailers in: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington 

What is paralytic shellfish poisoning?  

According to the FDA, it won’t take long for consumers to know if they’ve been infected, as symptoms are expected to appear within 30 minutes of eating shellfish contaminated with paralytic toxins. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Tingling of the lips, mouth, and tongue

  • Respiratory paralysis

  • Numbness of arms and legs

  • Weakness, 

  • Loss of muscle coordination

  • Floating feeling

  • Nausea

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Vomiting

  • Headache 

The agency recommends that consumers immediately seek medical assistance if they find themselves with any of these symptoms after consuming shellfish. Most consumers infected are likely to make a full recovery with respiratory support and fluid therapy. 

In the meantime, the FDA is urging consumers to avoid shellfish if they’re unsure of its origins. Restaurants and retailers are encouraged to discard any shellfish harvested from the affected locations, as the FDA continues its investigation of the issue. 

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