Poisoned shellfish prompts public alert

Poisoned shellfish have been found on the coast between Mohakatino and Motunui, prompting health authorities to warn against eating shellfish from the area.

Tests of shellfish in the area revealed levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) that fell above safety limits, Taranaki District Health Board said yesterday.

Waikato District Health Board has also issued a warning for the area between Mokau and Raglan.

The Ministry of Primary Industry limit is 0.80mg/kg and shellfish collected in the area showed levels of 0.96mg/kg.

Health protection officer David Cumming said shellfish accumulated the toxic poison from algae blooms.

"Certain environmental conditions cause cysts to develop into algae cells and these cells are part of the food chain for shellfish," Mr Cumming said.

"Shellfish are what we call filter feeders and they have the ability to accumulate algae and the toxins in algae blooms.

"The toxins aren't harmful for the shellfish, but they can be for humans."

Symptoms of PSP included numbness of the mouth, face and extremities, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, dizziness and double vision and in severe cases respiratory failure.

People are being warned not to consume any form of shellfish including kina, mussels, toheroa, pipi, tuatua, oysters and cockles.

Cooking the shellfish does not remove the toxin, the TDHB said.

Mr Cumming said it is still OK to eat whitebait and other fish.

Weekly tests are carried out and when the levels are safe warnings will be lifted.

Anyone who becomes ill after eating shellfish from the area should contact a doctor immediately, advise the public health unit and keep any remaining shellfish.

Taranaki Daily News