Press ESC to close

FDA Issues Warning on Contaminated Shellfish from Pacific Northwest

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a stern warning to the public, advising against the consumption of certain shellfish harvested from specific areas in Oregon and Washington due to potential contamination with paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs).

The affected shellfish include oysters and bay clams from Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay, Oregon, harvested from May 28 onwards, and all shellfish species from Willapa Bay, Washington, harvested between May 26 and May 30. These shellfish have reportedly been distributed to various restaurants and food retailers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

In a statement released last week, the FDA cautioned businesses to cease serving or selling these shellfish and urged consumers to discard any they may have purchased. “Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur after consuming contaminated shellfish,” the FDA warned. The condition is caused by saxitoxin, a toxin that can lead to gastrointestinal distress, neurological symptoms, and a sensation of “floating” or disassociation. Severe cases can result in respiratory paralysis and asphyxiation.

The FDA emphasized that shellfish can naturally become contaminated with toxins from the water they inhabit, primarily due to marine algae. Some species of shellfish can clear toxins more rapidly than others, prolonging the period during which they pose a risk to human health. Importantly, shellfish contaminated with paralytic shellfish toxins may appear, smell, and taste normal, and cooking or freezing cannot remove the toxins.

Symptoms of PSP typically develop within 30 minutes of consuming contaminated seafood. Mild symptoms include tingling sensations in the lips, mouth, and tongue, as well as a “pins and needles” sensation. Severe symptoms include vomiting and respiratory paralysis. Those experiencing symptoms are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers and report their symptoms to their local health departments.

The Oregon Agriculture Department and the Washington Health Department both reported recalls of affected shellfish on May 30 due to elevated PSP levels. The FDA is currently awaiting further information on the distribution of these shellfish and will continue to monitor the situation, providing assistance to state authorities as needed. Updates on the safety alert will be provided as new information becomes available.

The FDA’s warning underscores the importance of vigilance in monitoring and managing the safety of seafood, particularly in regions prone to marine toxin contamination. Consumers and businesses are urged to stay informed and take necessary precautions to avoid potential health risks associated with contaminated shellfish.