Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Shellfish warning downgraded

New Zealand Food Safety today reduced a public health warning against collecting shellfish in the Waikato and Taranaki region.

The public health warning now extends from Albatross Point south to Oakura Beach and no longer applies to Kawhia and Aotea Harbours.

The department says more testing is being undertaken to determine the levels of paralytic shellfish toxins in the affected area.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from the Aotea/Kawhia Harbour area have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins are now within the safe limit of 0.8 mg/kg.

Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchin), and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten, New Zealand Food Safety said.

Note, cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin.

“Pāua, crab, and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut. If the gut is not removed, its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process,” New Zealand Food Safety said in a statement.

Symptoms typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include:

  • numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities (hands and feet)
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • paralysis and respiratory failure and in severe cases, death.

If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued, phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16, or seek medical attention immediately. You are also advised to contact your nearest public health unit and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.

Monitoring of toxin levels will continue and any changes will be communicated accordingly. Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets, or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by MPI to ensure they are safe to eat.

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