State issues seafood warning for Ventura County

By: Parimal M. Rohit

SACRAMENTO – California officials issued a warning to seafood eaters to avoid eating certain seafood caught off the Ventura County coastline.

The alert that was issued Oct. 10 by the California Department of Public Health warned seafood consumers to avoid eating “recreationally harvested bivalve shellfish” or the internal organs of lobster or rock crab.

Clams, mussels and whole scallops are also included in warning.

The alert was released as a result of officials determining lobster, rock crab and shellfish caught off the Ventura County coast contained dangerously high levels of “a naturally occurring toxin that can cause illness or death.”

“Dangerous levels of domoic acid have been detected in the internal organs of lobster … from this region. This toxin, also known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), can cause illness or death in humans,” the statement read. “Rock crab are also capable of accumulating this toxin in the internal organs.”

According to officials, there have not yet been any reported cases of human poisoning from domoic acid.

Domoic acid is found in the “lobster tomalley,” a delicacy found in the crustacean’s liver and pancreas, or in “crab butter,” with is the yellow-white fat matter found inside the back of a large crab’s shell.

Officials said commercially-sold clams, mussels and scallops or oysters from approved sources are not included within the warning.

“Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood,” according to information provided by Anita Gore of the Department of Public Health. “In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days.”

Cardiovascular instability, confusion, difficulty breathing, disorientation, extreme bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, seizures, even death and coma, reportedly occur in severe cases.

State officials added in addition to the warning issued on Oct. 10, an annual quarantine remains in effect along the entire California coastline (including bays and estuaries) on all species of recreationally harvested mussels. 

For more information on the quarantine and shellfish poisoning, call the California Department of Public Health’s “Shellfish Information Line” at (800) 553-4133 or visit cdph.ca.gov.

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