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Toxin levels in shellfish drop

17 May 2004

Toxin levels in shellfish drop but too early yet to lift closure on collection from Hawke’s Bay coastline

Hawke's Bay District Health Board advises that despite reducing levels of Paralytic Shellfish Toxin being found in shellfish samples taken last week, the coastline between Whareongaonga (approximately 22 kilometres north of Mahia) and Cape Turnagain in the south needs to remain closed to the collection of shellfish.

Results from shellfish samples collected last week showed a reduction in Paralytic Shellfish toxin levels to below the Food Safety Authority’s level at which an area is closed for shellfish collection - being 80 micrograms per 100 grams of flesh. The highest result was from Pania Reef, Napier where 67 micrograms of toxin per 100 grams was found.

It is important though to remind the public that further low results are needed before the closure can be lifted. Levels of the toxin in shellfish can increase, and decrease, very quickly as the toxic algae levels change in the water.

Further shellfish samples will be collected this week providing the weather plays its part in allowing them to be collected safely.

In the meantime,

Kina, mussels, toheroa, pipis, tuatua, oysters and cockles in affected areas should not be eaten.

Paua, 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. Cooking affected shellfish does not remove the toxin.

Fish, such as snapper, gurnard, and terakihi are not affected by the algae and are still safe to eat.

It needs to be stressed that anyone eating toxic shellfish in closed areas could be at risk of serious illness.

Symptoms of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning can occur within 12 hours of eating affected seafood and can include: Numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities first. Difficulty swallowing, or breathing. Headache, dizziness, and double vision.

Severe cases may suffer respiratory arrest resulting in death if medical treatment is not immediately available. If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from any Hawke’s Bay area (not just the closed area) they should contact a doctor immediately and also advise the Public Health Unit on (06) 878 1329.

Anyone wanting further information can phone the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's Toxic Shellfish Information Line on (06) 878-1329. There is a pre-recorded message giving the latest sampling results, the status of the closure, and a facility for people to leave their contact details and a message if required.

Information on the closure will be posted and updated on Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s web site www.healthinhawkesbay.co.nz in the Public Health Unit’s area of the site.

END



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