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Consumers Warned not to Eat the Viscera of Dungeness Crab Caught along Parts of the California Coast

Date: November 5, 2021
Number: SN21-009

Contact: CDPH Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program

Due to the detection of elevated levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning consumers not to eat the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters.

The recreational Dungeness crab season for California anglers begins on Saturday, November 6. This warning is effective for state waters located:

  • Sonoma/Mendocino County Line (38° 46.125' N. Latitude) to Point Reyes (38° N. Latitude), Marin County.

While domoic acid levels may vary, consumers should always follow these best preparation practices to avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in the crab's viscera. When whole crab is cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach into the cooking liquid. Water or broth used to cook whole crab should be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews (for example, cioppino or gumbo), stocks, roux, dressings or dips. Cooking crab does not decrease or destroy the toxin in the viscera or body meat. Consumers are advised to discard the viscera and cooking liquids.

The best ways to reduce the risks are to remove the crab viscera and rinse out the body cavity prior to cooking, i.e., boil, steam, or fry. Discard all cooking liquids.

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 within several days. In severe cases, the consumer may experience trouble breathing, confusion, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma or death.

CDPH continues to coordinate its efforts with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the fishing community to collect and test crab samples from the impacted areas until domoic acid levels have dissipated. Please contact CDFW for information about the recreational Dungeness crab season.

Test results are updated as laboratory results become available and can be viewed on the CDPH Domoic Acid webpage. Please visit CDPH's Domoic Acid FAQ for more information. To receive updated information about shellfish poisoning and quarantines, call CDPH's toll-free "Shellfish Information Line" at (800) 553-4133.

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