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PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: Biotoxin Warning For Shellfish On Christchurch Beaches And Lyttelton Harbour

A map of the affected area / Supplied

New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) is advising the public not to collect or consume shellfish gathered from the Christchurch beaches and Lyttelton Harbour due to the presence of diarrhetic shellfish toxins.

“Routine tests on greenshell mussels from Sumner have shown levels of diarrhetic shellfish toxin over the safe limit,” says NZFS deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.

The warning extends from Waimairi Beach to the southern head of Lyttelton Harbour (Adderley Head). The affected area includes Lyttelton Harbour and the Avon and Heathcote River Estuary.

“Please do not gather and eat shellfish from this area because anyone doing so could get sick. Affected shellfish include bivalve shellfish such as mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles and scallops, as well as pūpū (cat’s eyes), Cook’s turban and kina (sea urchin)”.

“Cooking the shellfish does not remove the toxin, so shellfish from this area should not be eaten.”

Symptoms of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning usually appear within 30 minutes of eating and last for about a day. Symptoms may include diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal cramps.

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.

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Finfish are not affected by this public health warning, but we advise gutting the fish and discarding the liver before cooking.

NZFS 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.

“NZFS is monitoring shellfish in the region and will notify the public of any changes to the situation,” says Mr Arbuckle.

Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by NZFS to ensure they are safe to eat.

Find out more

Shellfish biotoxin alert webpage

Subscribe to shellfish biotoxins to receive email alerts

See signage in the affected area

Podcast about shellfish contamination

Collecting Shellfish and Keeping Them Safe

Causes and symptoms of toxic shellfish poisoning

About toxic algal blooms

Food Safety for Seafood Gatherers booklet

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