Health & Medicine

Self-caught SLO County clams, mussels could kill you, health officials warn

You might want to stop and think before frying up any San Luis Obispo County shellfish.

The California Department of Public Health is advising people to avoid eating recreationally harvested mussels, clams or whole scallops from San Luis Obispo County for risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins.

The warning doesn’t apply to commercially sold clams, mussels or scallops from certified harvesters and dealers because those are subject to frequent mandatory testing to monitor for toxins.

According to the Department of Public Health, dangerous levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins have been found in recreationally caught mussels from the region. The naturally occurring toxins can cause illness or death in humans. Cooking does not destroy the toxins.

The toxins affect the central nervous system; symptoms include tingling around the mouth and fingertips within a few minutes to a few hours after eating the toxic shellfish, followed by loss of balance, loss of muscular coordination, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. In severe poisonings, complete muscular paralysis and death from asphyxiation can occur.

For more information, call the Department of Public Health’s Shellfish Information Line at 800-553-4133 or visit the department’s marine biotoxin monitoring webpage.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie