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Shellfish toxin warning lifted for the Bay of Plenty

Shellfish toxin warning lifted for the Bay of Plenty

The paralytic shellfish toxin health warning, which has been in place since December 2011, has been lifted for the Bay of Plenty coastline. The area for which the health warning is lifted includes the entire coastline from Waihi, east along the Bay of Plenty coastline, including Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, to Pukehina. Also included are Matakana and Motiti islands, and all other inshore islands along this coastline.

Routine sampling indicates that the levels of shellfish toxin are now within safe limits for the entire Bay of Plenty coastline.

“This has been the longest continuous health warning that has been issued for shellfish toxin in the Bay of Plenty,” says Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health.

Although paralytic shellfish toxin is no longer a concern when shellfish gathering, the public are reminded that there is always a need to exercise caution when deciding where to gather shellfish and when preparing shellfish for consumption.

Non-commercial shellfish collected from the sea and harbours are a high risk food because they tend to accumulate and concentrate in their flesh any contaminants found in the water. Bivalve shellfish (those with two shells) filter food particles from the seawater and so, for example, can accumulate viruses and bacteria from sewage overflows and farm run-off, toxins from naturally occurring algae, and chemical contaminants such as heavy metals from urban storm water run-off.

When shellfish are eaten raw or lightly cooked, bacteria and viruses won’t be killed. The most effective way to ensure you don’t get sick from eating shellfish is to buy them from the shop or collect them from areas where the seawater is clean and less likely to be contaminated in any way. It is generally not advisable to collect and eat shellfish from beaches and harbours next to built up urban areas. Proper handling, storage and cooking can further lower the risk of illness; visit the Food Safety website for more information - www.foodsafety.govt.nz.

For advice on health warnings regarding shellfish collecting, contact your local Health Protection Officer on 0800 221 555 or visit our website www.ttophs.govt.nz/health_warnings

ENDS

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