Recreational Bivalve Shellfish Harvesting In And Around Closed Areas

OTTAWA, July 8, 2010: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public against consuming personally harvested bivalve shellfish from and around closed harvest areas. These bivalve shellfish could contain paralytic shellfish toxins that can cause serious and potentially fatal illness if consumed.

There have been reported illnesses related to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) associated with the consumption of mussels from a closed area in New Brunswick.

The CFIA has determined that the reported illnesses were not associated with purchased product. However, consumers are advised to exercise caution when purchasing shellfish. Consumers can inquire at the point of purchase if the shellfish they are buying has proper documentation to ensure that it was harvested from an approved or open area.

Consumers are also advised that the levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP or red tide) are currently high and several areas are now closed to harvesting bivalve shellfish due to unacceptable PSP levels.

For more information on closures of shellfish harvesting areas, call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada information line for your area. A listing of information telephone lines can be found on the CFIA web site at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/fispoi/csspccsme.shtml#tel

Paralytic shellfish toxins are a group of natural toxins that sometimes accumulate in bivalve shellfish that include oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and cockles. Non-bivalve shellfish, such as whelks, can also accumulate these toxins. These toxins can cause PSP if consumed. Symptoms of PSP include tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue, hands and feet, and difficulty swallowing. In severe situations, this can proceed to difficulty walking, muscle paralysis, respiratory paralysis and death in as quickly as 12 hours.

The food safety fact sheet on Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) can be viewed at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/concen/cause/pspe.shtml

For information on receiving recalls by e-mail, or for other food safety facts, visit our web site at www.inspection.gc.ca.

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Media Relations: 613-773-6600