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CDPH Updates Warning about Certain Seafood Caught in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties 

Date: 6/8/2015 
Number: 15-041 
Contact: Anita Gore, Orville Thomas (916) 440-7259 

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is updating its warning to consumers regarding certain seafood caught in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties due to dangerous levels of a naturally occurring toxin. 

CDPH has expanded the warning not to eat recreationally caught mussels and clams to include the internal organs (viscera) of scallops. Only the white meat of scallops should be consumed. 

In addition, CDPH has clarified that consumers should not eat the internal organs of commercially or recreationally harvested anchovy and sardines. These fish should be de-headed, gutted and rinsed thoroughly before consuming. Significant toxin levels are found only in the viscera, and not in the meat, of these small finfish. Previously, the warning implied that the entire body of those fish could be contaminated. 

The warning regarding internal organs of commercially or recreationally caught crab taken from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties remains unchanged. 

Dangerous levels of domoic acid have been detected in some of these species and are also likely to be present in the other species. Domoic acid accumulation in seafood is a natural occurrence that is related to a ‘bloom’ of a particular single-celled plant. The conditions that support the growth of this plant are impossible to predict. 

CDPH is continuing to collect a variety of molluscan bivalve shellfish, finfish and crab samples from the area to monitor the level of domoic acid in seafood in the region. 

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. 

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience trouble breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short term memory (a condition known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning), coma or death. There have no reported illnesses associated with this event. 

To receive updated information about shellfish poisoning and quarantines, call CDPH’s toll-free “Shellfish Information Line” at (800) 553-4133. For additional information visit CDPH’s Natural Marine Toxins: PSP and Domoic Acid Web page.
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