November 17, 2017

California Warns Consumers Not to Eat Anchovies, Sardines, Crab

The California Department of Public Health is warning consumers not to eat commercially or recreationally caught anchovies or sardines or the internal organs of crab from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Dangerous levels of domoic acid have been found in some of these species and could be found in other species.

SardinesDomoic acid is produced by phytoplankton, a type of algae, and accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies. It is a biotoxin that affects the brain. Several people have died over the years and may others have become permanently disabled with brain damage after eating domoic acid contaminated seafood. The first reported outbreak of domoic acid poisoning was in 1987 at Prince Edward Island, Canada. Three people died and more than 100 were sickened in that outbreak after eating contaminated seafood.

Anchovies and sardines are not gutted before being consumed. The toxin accumulates in the digestive tracts of marine animals. This health advisory is in addition to the April 4, 2014 warning not to eat recreationally harvested bivalve shellfish (mussels, clams, and scallops) from Monterey or Santa Cruz counties for high domoic acid levels.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating contaminated seafood. The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and dizziness. People get better within several days in cases of mild illness. In severe cases, symptoms include trouble breathing, confusions, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma, or death.

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