New Zealand Food Safety is advising the public not to collect or consume shellfish gathered from part of Queen Charlotte Sound due to the possible presence of toxins.
“Routine tests on mussel samples taken from Okiwa Bay (The Grove) have shown levels of diarrhetic shellfish toxins more than 3.5 times the safe limit,” says New Zealand Food Safety specialist adviser, Piers Harrison.
The warning extends from The Grove up to a line from Dieffenbach Point across to West Head in the Marlborough Sounds.
“Please do not gather and eat shellfish from this area because anyone doing so is potentially at risk of getting sick,” said Mr Harrison.
“Cooking the shellfish does not remove the toxin, so mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish from this area should not be eaten.”
He said 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.
Symptoms of diarrhetic shellfish toxin poisoning typically appear within half an hour of ingestion and last for about 24 hours. Symptoms may include diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal cramps.
New Zealand Food Safety has had no notifications of associated illness.
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.
“As is our usual practice, monitoring of toxin levels will continue and any changes will be communicated accordingly,” says Mr Harrison.
Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by New Zealand Food Safety to ensure they are safe to eat.