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California Health Officials Warn against Toxic Shellfish From Half Moon Bay & Monterey Bay

Update Date: Aug 23, 2016 01:25 PM EDT

Public health officials in California have warned people against consuming rock crabs and bivalve shellfish along the Central Coast, because of a possible toxic domoic acid contamination.

Specifically, Half Moon Bay rock crabs, Monterey Bay rock crabs, and bivalve shellfish are on the danger list for now, according to the California Department of Public Health, reported Food Safety News.

Rock crabs captured in Half Moon Bay contained toxin levels that were more than 10 times the 30-parts-per-million level necessary to declare a warning. Officials also detected high amounts of domoic acid in several shellfish found in the area.

Notably, the high level of the naturally occurring toxins is caused due to unpredictable "bloom" of a particular aquatic plant. However, no illnesses have been reported from the consumption until Friday evening.

Fortunately, commercially sold mussels, clams, scallops or oysters from approved sources are not included in the state - issued warnings.

The Californian state law only permits the state - certified and approved dealers and harvesters to sell these products. The shellfish from these certified sources are subject to frequent and mandatory testing to monitor toxins.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), marine microorganisms known as diatoms from the Pseudo-nitzschia genus produce domoic acid.

Although the toxin is not harmful to shellfish and aquatic organisms, yet it can be highly fatal to human beings and marine mammals. The toxin infiltrates the brain and interferes with the normal transmission of the nerve signals.

Notably, low doses of domoic acid can cause people to suffer severe brain damage manifested by a short term memory loss, while high dosages can lead to coma or even death.

It is to be noted that presence of domoic acid in the West Coast has been linked to the poisoning of more than 200 sea lions and Guadalupe fur seals in 2015.

In the meantime, the California health department will continue to coordinate its efforts with the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife and the fishing community to collect rock crab samples from the central and northern California coast until the domoic acid levels have dissipated.

Consumers, who want more information on the same can reach out to CDPH's toll-free Shellfish Information Line at 800-553-4133.

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