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Date: 11/16/2009 

Number: 09-109 

Contact: Al Lundeen (916) 440-7259 


The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning consumers not to eat Santa Cruz County sport-harvested shellfish because the clams, mussels, scallops or oysters may be contaminated with domoic acid, a dangerous toxin that is harmful to people.

This warning does not apply to commercially sold clams, mussels, scallops or oysters. State law prohibits the sale or offering to sell for human consumption these types of shellfish except by a state-certified commercial shellfish harvester or dealer. Shellfish sold by certified harvesters and dealers are subject to frequent mandatory testing.

Today’s warning is in addition to CDPH’s October 28, 2009 announcement, which lifted the statewide annual quarantine on sports-harvested mussels for all coastal counties except Del Norte, Humboldt and San Luis Obispo. This means sports-harvested shellfish from four California counties – Del Norte, Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz – should not be eaten.

No cases of human poisoning from domoic acid are known to have occurred in California.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear completely within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience excessive bronchial secretions, difficulty breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, permanent loss of short term memory, coma and death.

To receive updated information about shellfish poisoning and quarantines, call CDPH toll-free “Shellfish Information Line” at (800) 553-4133.

Last modified on: 11/16/2009 10:58 AM