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The FDA Warns That Consuming Shellfish From Oregon and Washington Is Hazardous

A toxin that leads to "Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning" has been discovered in oysters, bay clams, and various shellfish from these regions.

Eating Shellfish From Oregon and Washington Is Dangerous, FDA Says
Eating Shellfish From Oregon and Washington Is Dangerous, FDA Says

The FDA Warns That Consuming Shellfish From Oregon and Washington Is Hazardous

Shellfish such as oysters and bay clams gathered in Washington and Oregon may contain a dangerous poison called paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), the FDA cautioned recently. This health hazard can even result in death. Here's what you need to be aware of.

Which shellfish must be avoided?

The FDA advises against consuming specific shellfish that might induce PSP, which dining establishments should leave uneaten and consumers should not partake of. These include:

  • Oysters and bay clams acquired from Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay, Oregon after May 28, 2024.
  • All shellfish species from Willapa Bay, WA, including: Stony Point, gathered from May 26 to May 30, 2024; Bay Center, collected from May 29 to May 30, 2024; and Bruceport, harvested from May 29 to May 30, 2024.

The aforementioned shellfish may have reached these eight states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Washington

If you reside in these regions and have recently procured shellfish, examine whether they might have originated from Oregon or Washington. If so, the FDA suggests not eating them (it also instructs restaurants and retailers to cease selling them).

The toxins in these shellfish cannot be eradicated by freezing, therefore the warning applies to both frozen and fresh shellfish from these growing areas and harvest dates. When symptoms of PSP emerge, seek medical assistance.

What do the symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning entail?

According to the CDC, symptoms often manifest within 30 to 60 minutes after eating the contaminated shellfish and may include tingling and numbness throughout your lips, tongue, face, arms, and legs.

In more severe instances, additional symptoms may develop as well. These can involve digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting, and neurological (nerve and brain) symptoms that may involve headaches, dizziness, weakness, or a sensation of buoyancy.

In extreme cases, walking and swallowing problems may occur if the toxin blocks critical muscles related to these bodily functions. PSP can even claim lives if it affects the muscles responsible for breathing. If someone exhibits such symptoms, seek prompt medical attention. There is no antidote available for the toxin, but healthcare professionals can help a person breathe while their body attempts to recover.

How do shellfish get contaminated with this toxin?

The toxin linked to PSP is produced by dinoflagellates, tiny creatures that sea creatures often consume. Usually, the number of dinoflagellates in water is too low to cause harmful effects in humans. However, when there are harmful algal blooms (HABs), these microalgae produce high concentrations of toxins that may harm sea creatures who feed on them.

This appears to have triggered the current FDA alert. Dangerously elevated levels of PSP-causing toxins were discovered in samples of shellfish from the locations and time periods specified in the warning.

You can't determine if shellfish are poisonous merely by their appearance, the Washington State Department of Health explains, and neither cooking nor freezing can eliminate the toxins. If you gather your seafood, keep tabs on maps and alerts (like the Washington Coastlines map) to know if harmful algal blooms are occurring in your area.

Read also:

In 2024, oysters and bay clams collected from Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay in Oregon after May 28 should be avoided due to the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning. The FDA's warning also applies to specific shellfish species from Willapa Bay, WA, collected between May 26 and May 30, 2024. These contaminated shellfish may be distributed in several states, including Oregon and Washington, and could potentially lead to severe health issues if consumed.

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