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FDA recalls oysters and clams linked to serious toxin causing paralytic shellfish poisoning



Shucking some oysters under the summer sun may seem like the epitome of seasonal living, but recent alerts from the FDA have shed a dark cloud over this seafood delight. The organization issued warnings about shellfish, including oysters and bay clams, harvested in Oregon and Washington that may be contaminated with a neurotoxin responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), a potentially fatal illness. Due to the health risks, both states have initiated recalls for the affected seafood, according to the FDA.

On May 30, the Oregon Department of Agriculture alerted the FDA about oysters and bay clams harvested in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay, which had elevated levels of saxitoxins or paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) that cause PSP. The affected shellfish were distributed in Oregon and New York but may have also reached other states. In Washington, a similar message was received concerning shellfish from Willapa Bay, specifically Stony Point, Bay Center, and Bruceport, harvested between May 26 and May 30 and then shipped to multiple states.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by paralytic shellfish toxins produced by marine algae that accumulate in shellfish like clams, mussels, and oysters. These toxins can affect our nervous system and muscles, causing symptoms such as numbness, tingling, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory failure. The toxins can reach dangerous levels in shellfish during certain conditions when they consume more algae, which contains the toxins. While some shellfish can eliminate the toxins quickly, others take longer, posing a risk to consumers who eat them.

If consumed, contaminated shellfish can lead to the rapid onset of PSP symptoms, typically appearing within 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion. These symptoms can include severe headaches, nausea, diarrhea, tingling sensations, and muscles paralysis, which can result in respiratory failure or death. Historical cases of PSP have been known to lead to fatalities within 30 minutes of exposure, highlighting the critical nature of the illness. While there is no antidote for the toxins, prompt medical intervention can help manage severe cases until the toxins leave the body.

In light of the potential dangers associated with consuming contaminated shellfish, it is crucial to be vigilant about the sourcing of oysters, clams, and other shellfish. Following the FDA alerts and state recalls can help minimize the risks of PSP and prevent potentially life-threatening consequences. Additionally, understanding the underlying causes of paralytic shellfish poisoning, such as algal blooms and toxin accumulation in shellfish, can inform consumers of the importance of safe shellfish consumption practices. By staying informed and cautious, individuals can enjoy delicious shellfish dishes without putting their health at risk.

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