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Auckland Public Health Warning – Biotoxin in Shellfish

19 November 2012

Public Health Warning – Biotoxin in Shellfish

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service advises of an expanded affected area of unsafe shellfish, since the release issued Friday. The public are advised not to consume shellfish collected from Mohakatino (located in Taranaki) north to Maunganui Bluff (just north of Dargaville), including the Manukau and Kaipara Harbours.

“Ongoing monitoring has shown high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) present in shellfish along this coastline. People should take note of the areas that contain high levels of PSP and avoid collecting shellfish in these areas,” says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Simon Baker.

Shellfish including kina, mussels, toheroa, pipis, tuatua, oysters, cockles and scallops taken from the affected areas should not be eaten. Cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken, however the gut should be removed before cooking. It is safe to eat the flesh of fish, but not the guts of fish that feed on algae or shellfish.

Symptoms of PSP usually occur within 12 hours after eating shellfish containing the toxins:
• Numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities.
• Difficulties in swallowing or breathing.
• Dizziness, double vision.
• In severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure.

As illness can be serious, if you or any member of your family becomes ill after eating shellfish, contact your doctor immediately and advise Health Protection staff at your local Public Health Service.

Shellfish and seawater samples around New Zealand are tested regularly by the Ministry for Primary Industry to ensure they are not contaminated. Public warnings are issued when shellfish are not safe to eat. Monitoring of toxin levels will continue in the region and any changes will be communicated accordingly.

Further information is available by visiting the following websites:
1. Map showing the contaminated area: http://www.foodsmart.govt.nz/food-safety/hunting-collecting-fishing/seafood-gatherers/
2. Auckland Regional Public Health Service website: http://www.arphs.govt.nz/health-information/healthy-environments/shellfish

ENDS

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